Saturday Surgery: A Convenient Option for Joint Replacement

Saturday joint replacement surgery made standing over the stove a cinch for Mr. Rivera, shown here with his wife, Carmen.

Hospitals are open 24/7. Still, they traditionally operate on a weekday schedule, with nonemergency surgery and procedures performed Monday through Friday.

But now, patients have a weekend option for total knee or hip replacement. Orthopedic surgeon Vijay Rasquinha, MD, offers the procedures on Saturdays at North Shore University Hospital (NSUH). The new service is a welcome convenience for patients with busy schedules.

“Caregivers won’t have to miss work to help a parent or grandparent before and after surgery,” Dr. Rasquinha said. The Saturday schedule is also convenient for joint replacement patients themselves, who may need to limit the days they take off work.

“While patients can’t return to work on Monday because it takes time to recover from joint replacement, at least they won’t miss work for the surgery itself,” Dr. Rasquinha said.

The First Step Toward Recovery

Rehabilitation begins immediately after surgery. “We encourage patients to stand and walk the day of surgery, which is typical for joint replacement,” Dr. Rasquinha said. Getting on your feet as soon as possible helps speed recovery. Two days later, joint replacement patients go home to recover and begin recuperation, instead of being discharged to a rehabilitation facility, which is the more traditional course of recovery.

“Unless extenuating circumstances require a patient to be discharged to a rehabilitation facility, our total joint replacement patients can undergo rehab in the comfort of their own home for the first two weeks,” Dr. Rasquinha said.

Physical Therapy House Calls

Saturday knee and hip joint replacement patients follow a fast-track rehabilitation protocol. Within 24 hours of discharge, a nurse visits patients at home to check their progress and assist with pain management. To help patients get back on their feet, a physical therapist also comes by daily for the first two weeks.

Physical therapy starts with range-of-motion exercises to prevent scar tissue from forming. Patients also work on walking and endurance. Once they reach certain milestones, they’re mobile enough to begin physical therapy at an outpatient rehabilitation facility.

Quick Return to Active Life

Hiram Rivera, 68, a retired pipe fitter, can vouch for the benefit of Saturday surgery and home recovery. As one of Dr. Rasquinha’s first Saturday surgery patients, Mr. Rivera underwent joint replacement surgery on his left knee last June and did rehab at his Queens Village home for two weeks before starting outpatient rehabilitation.

“Even though the pain was a little rough, which I expected because I had my right knee replaced in 2013, I was happy to come home just two days after surgery,” Mr. Rivera said. “At home, I recovered much faster than I did the first time in a rehab facility. And the food was much better!” (Both he and his wife, Carmen, are excellent cooks.)

After only two months, the Riveras returned to salsa dancing, another of their favorite pastimes. “I highly recommend Saturday joint replacement surgery and home rehabilitation,” Mr. Rivera said.

Are You a Candidate for Joint Replacement?

Osteoarthritis is the most common reason for knee or hip replacement surgery. It causes inflammation, stiffness, and pain because the cartilage in knee or hip joints has broken down and no longer provides a cushion between bones.            

Surgery is generally a last resort--symptoms are often manageable with pain medications, exercise or other interventions--but it may be the right choice if X-rays show joints with little to no cartilage and osteoarthritis pain disrupts everyday activities such as walking or functioning at work.

Knee and hip replacement were once reserved for patients in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. But these days, many people in their 40s and 50s seek the elective surgery. “Joint replacement can restore your quality of life and help you stay active,” Dr. Rasquinha said.

If joint pain limits your activities, our free online assessment can be the first step in improving your quality of life.

Find an orthopedic specialist to put you back on your feet at the Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute.

Find more news about health, wellness, medical discoveries and community programs from LIJ Medical Center and North Shore University Hospital in Vitality magazine.

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