How your body works: Arthritis

Posted on 8 June 2021

Joint pain is a debilitating and often chronic condition, but with the right treatment, it can be managed. Now, Mediclinic’s Care Expert makes surgical treatment options more accessible than ever.

Experts aren’t sure how many South Africans have arthritis: the authors of one journal article, which examined studies conducted across the African continent between 1975 and 2014, wrote that much more research was needed to “address the prevalence and the true burden of this disease in Africa”. The Arthritis Foundation of South Africa, meanwhile, estimates that “at least 50% of South Africans could be living with arthritis and are unaware of their status”.

Happily, the treatment and care of arthritis has advanced tremendously in the past few decades. And, says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Hennie Bosch, who is affiliated with Mediclinic Durbanville, it’s getting better all the time.

Just a few years ago, arthroplasty – reconstruction or replacement of a joint through surgery – required a fairly lengthy period of recovery and, in many cases, time in a step-down facility before the patient could return to their normal life and activities. But, says Dr Bosch, a combination of improved technology, better pain management and new medication has significantly shortened post-surgery recovery times. He’s even had some patients forget which hip was replaced. “I saw a former patient walking out of a spinning class [at the gym], and even to my eye, I couldn’t tell what side had been operated on. I asked her; she had to actually stand still and think about it.”

This is made possible by, among other things, the improved longevity of the prostheses used to replace weakened and damaged joints. Previously, Dr Bosch explains, surgeons would replace a joint and wait for it to reach the end of its lifespan around 15 years later. Newer prostheses come with “very modular components”, so specialists can service different components if these need to be slightly tweaked or altered. It’s a little like a car service, which can target specific parts of a vehicle; though, of course, the human body is far more complex than even the most modern vehicle. That complexity, thankfully, is increasingly matched by the intricacy of technology, the world class skills of medical professionals – and the cohesion that programmes like Mediclinic’s Care Expert offer.

Care Expert is a value-based model that brings together multiple facets of orthopaedic surgical treatment into a streamlined, team-led journey. It’s an integrated hip and knee replacement surgical product that provides three key elements: financial certainty, quality care and, critically, an enhanced patient experience.

Dr Bosch hails Care Expert and similar programmes as a great help in allowing experts like himself to plan and conduct surgery, as well as managing patients’ expectations and their post-surgical journeys. Today, in the hands of surgeons such as Dr Bosch, a patient can expect less pain and less bleeding. Because surgical drains are no longer as necessary, less swelling occurs and inflammation is reduced.

“The whole care package has improved. Where before you might stay in hospital for a few days or a week, now, patients – particularly those with fewer comorbidities – will stay overnight to be monitored and can go home the next day. “Many of my patients are already standing up on the night after a daytime surgery; I just saw a patient who, a few hours after surgery, had already walked to the nurses’ station and back.”




Published in Magazine

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