Orthopedics & Sports Medicine blog

July 24, 2017

Rehabilitation After Joint Surgery - Sauk Prairie Joint Health Center

Rehabilitation After Joint Surgery  Sauk Prairie Joint Health Center

Dr. William Niedermeier: You're up and out of bed the same day if your surgery is in the morning, and if it's in the afternoon, certainly you're up and walking the next day.

Narrator: One of the first things the staff at Sauk Prairie Joint Replacement Center wants you to do after surgery is move. Move down the hall. Move into physical therapy. Move out of the hospital, and back home. Move from one art project to another, without joint pain.

Kathy Straub, PT: We have expectations for the patients that are a little higher than for some of the other programs. We believe they can do more than what maybe they've been challenged to do before. They can walk further, they can get home quicker, they don't necessarily need to go to a rehab facility leaving here, they should be able to go home and be able to resume their life at home.

Narrator: When Sauk Prairie Joint Replacement Program decided to rethink how they function a few years ago, they put a greater emphasis on what happens after surgery: physical therapy. While you're in the hospital, you attempt physical therapy twice a day, and unlike other programs, you do your physical therapy in a group.

Dr. Arnold Rosenthal: My first response to this was, "This is never going to work. I don't want to be with a bunch of strangers the day I've had surgery and I don't feel well, and I haven't had a shower. This is going to be really unpopular!"

Dr. Michael Lamson: If someone told me, "When you recover from your surgery, you're going to work with a group of patients," I probably would be a little hesitant at first to do that, and a lot of my patients are at first. But, when they're done, they actually build very strong relationships, not only with the staff, but with the other patients that are here, and I really believe that makes a big difference. I've seen a huge change in the recovery. I feel like people are more confident in themselves when they recover. By learning more about what is going to happen, that almost empowers the patient more, and it definitely has made a difference in the recovery. We've been doing this rehab program now for two years and I would never go back, it's a huge improvement.

Dr. Niedermeier: There's nothing more motivating to the 55-year-old guy than to have the 80-year-old woman next to him pick up her leg and bend it to 100 degrees and say, "This really isn't so hard."

Narrator: Therapy continues when you leave the hospital, but again, you're not alone. Sauk Prairie Memorial Joint Replacement Center asks you to pick a coach, someone to help guide you before and after surgery.

Dr. Niedermeier: The coach has been tremendously helpful, and one of the things is if you've had some pain medicine on board and you've had general anesthetic the day before, and your leg hurts, you just kind of tune out what people are telling you, and it's tremendously helpful to have somebody else listening to it so that when the activity ends and you sit down to rest a little bit, it can be discussed and they can go through it again and tell people what they need.

Dr. Diana Kruse: Well, I think one of the deficits before we had this program in place is that when the patient went home, they didn't have anyone to really kind of coax them on or urge them on to keep doing their exercises. I mean, it is a painful thing to have, and so it's easy to kind of slip back and say, "Well, I'm only going to do five exercises and not 10 today." With that coaching encouragement, and kind of monitoring that helps them come along in their healing a lot faster.

Narrator: How does the staff know this increased emphasis on physical therapy works? 

Dr. Matthew Hebert: We have accountability in that we track all of the patients who come through the joint program. There are several parameters that we track, including distance walked, amount of fluctuation in their knee pain, all those different measures. We track that, and when we compare that to other institutions that also track that, we compare very favorably, and in fact in most cases exceed the comparisons that we look at.

Narrator: And, they say goodbye sooner than before, although the joint replacement center holds regular reunions for the people they've served.

Straub: Life is not a passive thing. You have to be an active participant in order to get back to doing all the things you want to do.

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