Joint Replacement Makes a World of Difference

May 20, 2013

Joint replacement surgery can truly transform a person’s quality of life. In fact, Alice Malinowski often hears from patients who say, “I wish I hadn’t waited so long.”

“It’s amazing to see the progress from before surgery, when patients are in pain and can’t even sit comfortably, to after surgery,” says Ms. Malinowski, R.N., program coordinator for the Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital Center for Joint Replacement. “It’s always exciting to hear how happy they are.”

Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital has offered joint replacement surgery for many years. But in 2011, the hospital’s senior leadership decided to zero in on creating a more personalized and supportive experience for joint replacement patients and their families. The new Center for Joint Replacement, which focuses on hip and knee replacement, opened its doors in spring of 2012 and is already receiving rave reviews, Ms. Malinowski says.

“We’ve centered our entire program around the patient,” she says. “It’s really the little things that make such a difference.”

Right time for joint replacement?

Candidates for joint replacement surgery experience uncontrollable pain, decreased physical function and can no longer participate in the activities they enjoy. Also, surgery candidates have tried other therapies to address joint problems, such as physical therapy or medication, but without success. More than half the patients at the Center for Joint Replacement are 60 years old and younger.

But before deciding to undergo surgery, prospective patients can attend one of the Center’s free Joint Replacement Seminars with Michael Callan, D.O., an orthopaedic specialist. During the seminars, Dr. Callan discusses a patient’s options and when surgery is the right choice.

If surgery is the best option, patients are fully prepared before entering the operating room. A couple of weeks before surgery, patients attend a class where they learn how to prepare both their bodies and their minds for surgery. A team comprised of a nurse, a physical therapist, occupational therapist and discharge planner, also educates patients about what to expect during their hospital stay and how to work toward their recovery after going home.

“Rehabilitation is a serious investment in time and effort. It’s hard work,” Ms. Malinowski says. “But once you’re finished, it’s worth it.”

Typically, joint replacement patients stay in the hospital for two to three days. All patients participate in three daily individual and group rehabilitation treatments with a physical therapist the morning after surgery. Patients’ family members are also encouraged to attend the therapy sessions to learn about the exercises. During rehabilitation, patients will begin the hard work of rebuilding the muscles around the new joint and practice everyday living activities, such as getting dressed and going up and down stairs.

Making a smooth transition

The Center also makes sure joint replacement surgery patients experience a smooth transition from the hospital to the next level of care. The Center’s discharge planner arranges for a physical therapist and nurse to visit the patient several times a week at home until the patient progresses to outpatient therapy. The Center will even arrange for prescribed medical devices, such as walkers.

“We’re a one-stop shop,” Ms. Malinowski says. “We really try to make it as easy as possible for our patients and their families.”

Ms. Malinowski notes that much of the Center’s success is rooted in its team approach.

“The interaction of the entire team — the nurses, therapists, discharge planners, patients, doctors — is so finely integrated,” she says. “I hear many of our patients and families say they’ve never seen so many people work together so well as a team.”