YKC’s Jon Smith explains why, following long months of lockdown, knee surgery has become more demanding.
A few weeks ago I carried out an ACL reconstruction on a patient in his early twenties. In normal times, this would be a procedure carried our relatively swiftly after injury, although full recovery would mean staying clear of strenuous sport for the best part of nine months.
But these have not been normal times. With surgery curtailed for months, this patient had waited a year for his operation. Muddling along as best he could meant that, in addition to his ruptured ACL, there was a year’s worth of concurrent conditions to consider, including a meniscal tear. He’s far from the only one. And knee surgeons up and down the country are trying to pick up the pieces. It’s making many surgeries far more technically complex and time consuming than was typical before the pandemic.
It’s a similar story with knee replacements. Fitter patients will always tend to do better in any operation. That’s certainly true of knee replacements although, for obvious reasons, staying fit when your knee is giving you chronic pain isn’t easy. During the pandemic, however, that became even tougher. It was harder to get out. Many people felt unsafe going out. For a while we were all encouraged only to venture out for one hour’s fitness each day.
So it’s small wonder that now, as we are trying to whittle away at waiting lists, we’re finding patients arriving for surgery in a deconditioned state. Their knee is stiffer. It’s more swollen. Operations take longer. Patients simply don’t recover as quickly.
The pandemic has had lots of unexpected secondary effects. This is another, and it’s helping to compound the problem of reducing waiting lists, because removing each person from that list is taking longer than it once did.
Don’t wait to see your GP
I realise that, in reading this, your reaction might be ‘well, if reducing waiting lists is such a challenge, I won’t bother my GP or consultant just yet.’ But that would increase your risk of doing additional damage to your knee while you wait for surgery, and you won’t get a place on the list unless you’ve seen someone about your knee.
So if you are suffering knee pain, don’t wait. Book an appointment to see your GP so that you’re at least in the system and you’ll limit any additional damage caused.
What is an ACL injury? What happens when you damage your meniscus? How do you treat tendinitis? If you’ve had a diagnosis, find out more about your condition.