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Orthopedics & Covid-19

Courtesy: AP

As the world rapidly changes and adjusts to the Covid-19 outbreak, medical care has been required to rapidly adapt.  While most people are now confined to home, they also find themselves doing more projects around the house, participating in home workouts, and doing things that would normally be put off because of normal life tasks.  

A common question I have received recently is "are you still seeing patients?"  The answer is "yes," but definitely modified.  Many joint replacement surgeries or fractures that occurred before the quarantine still need regular follow up, as well as X-rays of the joint to make sure things are healing normally.  Post operative visits are still vital for healing and to make sure the patient is progressing in an acceptable fashion.  A large majority of orthopedic conditions are truly not urgent, and given the cancellations of most elective surgery, coming in for some problems can probably wait though.  

My hope is to help educate patients who may be hurt or in pain, and help determine if they should be seen soon, or wait for the quarantine restrictions to go away.  From an orthopedic surgeon standpoint, I think a reasonable determination is whether or not waiting for 30+ days would result in a negative outcome when compared to fixing the problem urgently.  

Most arthritic joints, or pains that have been gradually been building can certainly wait, though injections could potentially be performed in the office to help manage rapid increases in pain.  

Acute ruptures of tendons/ligaments/cartilage are more likely to need evaluation.  If you suffer an injury that results in a rapid and noticeable loss of motion or strength would be a good example.  A fall on the shoulder causing a dislocation, or complete loss of the ability to raise the arm overhead could signify a massive rupture of the rotator cuff.  A pop and deformity in the elbow when lifting may signify a distal biceps injury.  Broken bones are also things that likely would need to be evaluated in a more urgent fashion as well, and usually need to be confirmed with X-rays.

Overall, I would not expect the weekend warrior patient to be able to correctly identify their injury, or how urgent it would need to be treated, especially given recent societal stresses.  The key is to make sure things are handled safely and urgently when necessary.  Please contact the office or through the website with any questions, and know that if something needed to be seen face-to-face, we can do so in a clean and safe manner.  Telehealth visits can be performed for the less-urgent problems as well.  

Andrew Kersten, MD Asheville, NC based, dual board-certified in Orthopedic Surgery and Orthopedic Sports medicine, specializing in sports injuries, arthroscopy and joint replacement for shoulder, elbow, and knee conditions.

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