‘It was like getting my life back:’ New knee replacement protocol helps patients go home sooner

Click to play video: 'New knee replacement protocol helps Alberta patients go home sooner with less pain' New knee replacement protocol helps Alberta patients go home sooner with less pain
WATCH: There's been a huge advancement for those needing knee replacement surgery in Alberta. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, patients are experiencing less pain and getting out of the hospital on the same day – Oct 1, 2019

A new knee replacement protocol being used in a Calgary hospital is helping patients get home faster and in some cases, eliminating narcotics.

The surgery has been performed on 20 patients at the Peter Lougheed Centre, with 17 of them returning home the same day, and the other three within 24 hours.

Kenn Thompson was one of those patients, after a spill on his mountain bike several years ago turned into years of pain and being left incapable of doing everyday tasks.

“I was always very active and now here I was reduced to someone who can’t even put his socks on,” Thompson said.

The new knee replacement protocol involves innovative surgical techniques combined with alternative pain management and medications.

“It’s a combination of non-narcotic based pain control and pain medications before surgery,” said Dr. Rajrishi Sharma, who was the first orthopedic surgeon in western Canada to adopt the new protocol.

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“Anesthesia-driven pain-blocks, and then non narcotic-based pain medication after surgery.

“So when you combine that all together we are able to almost eliminate narcotics for patients,” said Sharma.

Sharma says its an important change not only because of the current narcotic epidemic, but also because of the improved patient experience.

“If we are able to minimize narcotics, you have patients feeling a lot more normal. And if they feel normal, they are able to get up and mobilize with less pain.

  • “It’s almost a night and day difference for patients,” said Sharma.

READ MORE: ‘A quiet epidemic’: Why so many Canadians experience knee pain

As for Thompson, he was out of the hospital the same day of his surgery and back on his feet at work in 10 weeks with no narcotics.

“I think I took Tylenol the first night just to help me sleep and then after that I wasn’t taking anything that’s it. Just lots of ice,” Thompson said.

“It’s been unbelievable. Going from feeling so old and crippled, and then to get all that back again— it was like getting my life back.”

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While patients getting out of the hospital on the same day is freeing up hospital beds, Dr. Sharma says it’s too soon to tell if the new protocol will reduce wait times.

According to Alberta Health Services, in the past ten years the median length of stay for knee replacement in the Calgary zone has been reduced from 4.2 days to 2.3 days.

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