Whether a patient is a professional athlete, a restaurant employee or a stay-at-home mom, the first question he or she asks after surgery is usually, "How long will it take to recover?"
The answer is never an easy one to give. Depending on a given patient's age, physical fitness and a whole host of other factors, the time it takes to recover after surgery varies widely. Researchers in the field are constantly trying to find ways of either making surgery less invasive or creating post-surgery therapy plans to help speed up the process.
Often, advancements in this realm are slow to get to the general population. After they are thoroughly tested, educating the medical community about new recovery methods can take years. According to Meghan Knoedler, writing for the Mayo Clinic, the average amount of time it takes for research to make it to patients is about 17 years.
A team behind a new method for enhanced recovery after surgery, however, is aiming for their research to find patients more quickly.
The discovery-translation-application cycle
Knoedler reported that the research team, led by Dr. Sean C. Dowdy, M.D. started developing their discovery-translation-application cycle in 2013. At its core, the cycle is a method which uses a pre- and post-operative diet, pain control, fluid balance, nausea prevention and activity to reduce recovery time and lower rates of complications and readmission. Interestingly, the DTA cycle also reduces costs while increasing patient satisfaction. It has even been shown to lower opioid use by 80 percent within the first 48 hours after surgery.
Dowdy's team plans to circulate their findings to over 1000 service lines in 5 surgical specialties over the course of the next five years. This marks a significant reduction from the typical 17-year cycle.
Advances in elbow surgery
Each surgery has its own recovery time. Knee replacement surgery has an average recovery time of about one to three months, during which the patient uses a cane or walker, according Dr. Seth S. Leopold, M.D. at the University of Washington. A common elbow ligament surgery known as "Tommy John" has an average recovery time of 12 months, on the other hand.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a new surgery, meant to replace Tommy John, nearly halves that time. Tommy John surgery graphs a new ligament to the elbow, and therefore requires a significant amount of time for new tissue to grow. The new surgery, performed by Dr. George Paletta, uses Arthrex tape to brace the existing ligament. Most notably, Seth Maness, former pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, had the new surgery performed on his right elbow and has so far seen a marked improvement over pitchers who have undergone the Tommy John surgery.
Advancements such as those pioneered by Dr. Dowdy and Dr. Paletta aim to reduce surgery recovery times and help patients return to their normal standard of health as soon as possible. Sharing this information with the medical community is important to ensuring these improvements reach as many patients as possible.