Operation Theatre

Leading Orthopaedic Surgeons Warn of Ticking Time Bomb from Delayed Operations

700,000 orthopaedic operations have been cancelled – but new technology could provide a pain-relieving solution

With an estimated 700,000 orthopaedic patients having surgery postponed, leading surgeons are warning of the long-term effects of delaying non-essential operations as medical resources are redirected to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 2.1 million routine NHS operations – a third of which are orthopaedic procedures – have been postponed since 15th April for at least three months, which is set to place further pressure on already lengthy waiting lists and could cost up to £3bn.

For patients, this will lead to prolonged pain and discomfort of existing conditions and leave them vulnerable to further injuries and illnesses.

As a short-term solution to the problem, some of the UK’s top leading orthopaedic surgeons are pledging their support to a new digital patient tool, Joint School – an app developed to help orthopaedic patients manage pain, attend physiotherapy remotely and relieve pressure on the NHS. The app was founded by Mr. Thomas Harte and Dr. Axel Sylvan, co-founders of the myrecovery app.

Patient app

Dr. Axel Sylvan, surgeon and co-founder of Joint School, comments:

“The knock-on effect of postponing these operations is huge. Hospitals are already stretched and struggling to deal with ever-expanding waiting lists and the long-term consequences of this will put hospitals under even greater strain.”

“For patients, not only will it mean increased and prolonged discomfort, but it also leaves them at greater risk of infections, which includes COVID-19. Many patients who suffer from orthopaedic health conditions are over 70, so already fall into the vulnerable category.” 

“It is unclear when elective surgery will be resumed. Even when it does return it will be heavily reduced and additional steps to ensure patient and staff safety will decrease capacity and add to longer waiting lists.”

Joint School helps patients understand their condition, manage their pain and optimise their health for their eventual surgery date with information, exercises and tools for people who have had hip or knee replacements postponed. The app is supported by leading orthopaedic surgeons from around the UK, including Mr. Rahul Patel, Senior Knee Surgeon at University College Hospital in London.

Girl with mobile

Dr. Axel Sylvan continues:

“We created Joint School to help orthopaedic patients by sharing tips and advice on how they can alleviate the pain at home through rehabilitation exercises, as well as to take some pressure off the NHS during these challenging times.”

Mr. Rahul Patel, Consultant Knee Surgeon at University College Hospital in London, currently working with COVID-19 patients in ICU, comments:

“Covid 19 has forced health care professionals to think differently about how to care for their patients who have had surgery postponed. Patients waiting for joint replacement surgery are not only facing great uncertainty about when their procedure will take place but also how to best look after themselves in the meanwhile. Disruption to face-to-face care has meant healthcare needs digital substitutes more than ever – this app is that bridge for this large group of patients. The information, guidance and convenience of this digital tool is invaluable and will be of tremendous relief to both patient and surgeon.”

The company has also developed advanced AI technology that utilises the camera on patients’ phones, to help support the safe delivery of surgery once it returns. The technology will enable patients to record how their knee is moving from the safety of their own home with a smartphone camera.

The artificial intelligence will analyse the video and update the surgeon. Developed with leading surgeons, this feature will be launched initially in the US as surgery is due to return there earlier and then as surgery starts to return in the UK they will engage with NHS partners and supporters.

Joint School app is available now on iOS and Android via https://www.jointschool.app/

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

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