Deciding to have total hip or knee replacement surgery and the timing of the surgery is a personal and individualized process which can only made by the person experiencing the pain, mobility and function deterioration. Once the decided should “go it alone” or develop a carefully crafted plan to surround yourself with family and friends to assist you to reach your goals? A recently released study supports previous findings that having a dedicated family member, significant other, or friend providing support every step of the way before, during, and after surgery positively impacts surgical outcomes.
This study included nearly 2000 patients who experienced joint replacement surgery. The findings suggest that patients with strong social support, especially in the form of a “coach” experienced optimal outcomes including:
· Shorter hospital stays
· A greater likelihood to be discharged to their own home
· Were more likely to achieve transfer out of bed and ambulation target goals
· Reported feeling more ready and confident at the time of discharge
· Were more likely to rate the overall quality of their care as excellent.
The findings replicate those of other studies which also found that preoperative education, as well as the use of coaches, positively impacts the quality and timeline for postoperative recovery from joint replacement surgery.
This particular study not only specifically explored the impact of a coach on outcomes, but also drilled down further to identify those time intervals that were most positively influenced by an active coach participating in the surgical experience:
· Family or friend presence during the preoperative classes
· Family or friend presence in the preoperative holding area while awaiting surgery
· Family or friend presence during the last physical therapy session.
One additional finding was that the patient’s decision to use a coach for social support closely correlated with the view of his or her surgeon in this regard. If the surgeon emphasized the importance of this role to the patient, this emerged as an important priority to the patient during the planning process.
One message is pervasive. Once you have made the important decision to move forward with joint replacement surgery it is also important to identify those family members and friends who can function in the role of coach. Discuss this with your physician early in the process. When it comes to joint replacement surgery and rehabilitation these are no individual events, only team athletics.
Theiss, M.M., Ellison, M. W.l, & Tea, C.G. The Connection Between Strong Social Support and Joint Replacement Outcomes. Orthopedics. 2011; 34(5):357.