Right now, the NHS in parts of Yorkshire is making some in-roads into the mighty backlog of elective procedures such as knee replacements. But if the number of hospitalised Covid patients increases, we may once again be looking at postponements. If your knee operation is postponed, what are your options?
First of all, a little clarification. We’re not at a point where the entire NHS has called a halt to elective operations (that is, non-emergency procedures) such as knee replacements. It is, however, fair to say that some trusts haven’t resumed any non-emergency surgery yet, although some others are running at close to 80% of normal rates. And as the recent update from the British Orthopaedic Association noted, “Most hospitals are some where in-between.”
As Yorkshire Knee Clinic’s Jim Newman explains in this post, Yorkshire’s picture is also mixed, and a continuing rise in the number of hospitalisations combined with other factors (such as the end of the contract with private hospitals) could see waiting lists rise and operations postponed.
We certainly hope that doesn’t happen to you. But what are your options if it does?
It has to be said, options are limited. If you’ve reached the point where a knee replacement is needed reasonably urgently, you’ll likely be long past the stage where painkillers and rest are likely to have much of a positive long-term effect.
The same is true of all the methods we might typically employ before you reach knee replacement stage – if they had proved effective in the long term you wouldn’t need the knee replacement. Nevertheless, you might find all of the following can offer some temporary relief and/or help take the edge off the severity of the pain:
- Over the counter painkillers
- RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate)
- Behaviour modification (that is, changing your activities to avoid situations that place greatest stress on your knee joint)
- Weight loss
If you’re screaming ‘I’ve already done that!’ at the screen, one further option may be a steroid injection (although you may well have done that one too).
A steroid injection can offer temporary relief, and it’s something that may be worth considering if your knee operation is likely to be delayed for some time. If the delay isn’t a long one (i.e. shorter than three months) steroids wouldn’t be recommended as they could increase the risk of infection during your operation.
It’s also worth noting that steroid injections carry a small but increased Covid risk as they dampen the immune response – clearly not ideal when there’s a pandemic on the prowl. If your immune system was under par to begin with, steroids could increase the likelihood of infection and the severity of it. That risk is, however, felt to be very low for most patients which is why we are continuing to offer the injections.
Private treatment isn’t an option for everyone. But in our experience, it is an option for many more people than often realise it. That’s because private healthcare can often be ‘bundled up’ with employee benefits packages and forgotten about. Other health plans (even more commonly forgotten about) may offer a sort of halfway house to help lower the cost of private knee surgery.
And with NHS waiting lists hitting unwelcome levels, now would be an excellent time to dust off your benefits package to check whether you have private medical insurance.
If you’d like to explore your private knee surgery options, please get in touch.
Consultant Knee Surgeon at the Yorkshire Knee Clinic
“Mr Newman? He’s a genius in my eyes.”
Glen Jackson, YKC patient
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