Can’t enjoy exercise because of an achy knee? Is the soreness in your hip not going away with Advil anymore? UAB’s Bone and Joint Service Line offers options to improve your quality of life and get back to doing the things you love. Joint replacement is one of these options, and with expertise and the latest technology, UAB orthopaedic surgeons are making the procedure easier than ever before. That approach to quality is just one reason Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has designated UAB as a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement.
Joint replacement has come a long way, and UAB is “on the cutting edge, technique-wise,” says Herrick Siegel, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and associate professor of surgery. "And new advancements in weight bearing surfaces, implant modularity, and surgical approaches have resulted in tremendous improvement in the patient's recovery and long term outcome of joint replacement."
The Blue Distinction honor is based on optimal outcomes and few complications, with a goal to help consumers find quality specialty care on a consistent basis. “It’s a nice honor,” says David Moore, M.D., director of the center for joint replacement. “It’s a recognition of things we are already doing to optimize patients’ experiences and care.”
To focus on providing the best care, UAB orthopaedic surgeons are board-certified and fellowship-trained, which allows them to sub-specialize in an area of expertise. For example, surgeons doing hip and knee joint replacement focus primarily on just those joints. “It allows us to be very self-critical within our field,” remarks Moore. “We can make more improvements before and after, and ultimately optimize the outcome.”
Custom fit implants and new imaging technology has improved surgery techniques at UAB. “We are early to embrace and improve new ideas,” says Siegel. “We wean out the bad and apply what is critically proven and embrace it.”
UAB also offers pre-operative and post-operative classes and post-surgery information to patients based on the philosophy that an educated patient has the best surgical experience. “We do everything we can to educate and make each patient’s experience as positive as possible,” says Moore. Booklets, on-call assistance, and face-to-face education help patients remain confident and comfortable.
What you should know
Because the boomer generation is more active (which is a good thing), their joints are suffering at an earlier age. “The population for joint replacement is getting progressively younger,” says Moore. “It’s good to be active, and our goal is to return patients back to their activity.”
Currently the average age for hip replacement is in the 50’s, while knee replacement is older. As the population of joint replacement patients is moving toward younger and more active lifestyles, “the demands are becoming greater for longer-lasting joints,” remarks Siegel. “New materials don’t wear out like they did in the 1980s and ‘90s,” he says. “In many cases, they can last close to a lifetime.”
So, how do you know when you need a joint replacement? And, what are the next steps? Moore recommends first talking to your primary care physician about the pain you’re experiencing and then maximize conservative measures, like over-the-counter pain medicines and injections. “If conservative measures fail and the pain remains persistent, think about surgery,” says Moore. Obtain a referral from your primary care doctor, and UAB will determine if you’re a candidate for surgery.
“Oftentimes people wait too long,” remarks Moore. It’s important to visit an orthopaedic doctor before things worsen, because your body will lose the muscle strength that aids in a quick recovery.
For more information…
The UAB Division of Orthopaedic Surgery continues to collect data for research and strive toward excellence. For more information, visit uabmedicine.org/boneandjoint. Or if you have a referral from your primary physician and would like to schedule an appointment with a UAB orthopaedic joint replacement specialist, please call UAB HealthFinder at 205-934-9999.
The Blue Distinction designation is awarded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama to medical facilities that have demonstrated expertise in delivering quality healthcare. The selection criteria used to evaluate facilities were developed with input from a panel of expert physicians. More information on selection criteria is available at bcbs.com.