For many patients, a knee or hip replacement can be a major procedure that requires two or three days in the hospital.
That was not the case for former President George W. Bush, who reportedly was out of the hospital and headed home from Chicago to Dallas within hours of a partial replacement of his left knee last week.
The surgery was done less than two months after Bush, 68, had a similar procedure on his right knee.
He’ll likely face a few weeks of physical therapy, but it may not be long before the former president is again riding his mountain bike or hitting the golf course.
Nowadays, it’s not just former presidents who can make such a rapid recovery from joint replacement surgeries.
Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, for example, offers a “one day total joint” program, which will formally launch soon.
“You have your joint replacement in the morning and and are up and walking in physical therapy in the afternoon,” said Jay Mabrey, M.D., chief of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Baylor Dallas. “After an overnight stay and one or two additional therapy sessions you can go home in the afternoon that day.”
Mabrey said he has been performing the one-day procedure for his total hip and knee replacements in about half of his patients over the past six months.
“The people that do the best are healthy, active and have a good support system at home,” Mabrey said.
Patients who are highly motivated and do not have any other major medical issues could be eligible for the one-day option, Mabrey said.
“Instead of telling patients that they’ll be in the hospital for three or four days, I tell my patients that they’ll leave in one or two days,” Mabrey said. “They accept that. It just seems natural to them.”
Also key is pre-operative education that includes classes, online videos and other tools to acquaint patients with the process.
During the procedure, doctors try to minimize the amount of narcotics given to the patient, so that they are not as groggy afterward. Typically, patients will go through at least three additional weeks of physical therapy.
For last fiscal year, which ended in June, the average patient stay at Baylor Dallas for all hip and knee replacements was just under three days.
“It’s a team effort from the time they are in the doctor’s office, when the expectations are set, to when they get in the operating room, to when they’re able to discharge,” Mabrey said.