Are you one of the thousands of Canadians waiting in pain for orthopedic surgery amid record backlogs? Recent findings from CIHI paint a grim picture, indicating that relief from the prolonged surgery wait times remains elusive.
The impact of the pandemic has been profound, with the initial 2.5 years witnessing a 14% reduction in the number of surgeries performed compared to 2019. The most substantial decline transpired during the initial 4 months, as both scheduled and non-urgent surgeries were deferred or canceled in adherence to public health guidelines. Subsequent waves of the virus, including Delta and Omicron, brought about further national-level surgical cancellations.
This decrease in surgical procedures has given rise to a mounting queue of orthopedic patients awaiting surgery, as other medical surgeries and procedures took precedence. On average, patients now find themselves waiting for over 7 months to receive orthopedic surgeries like knee replacements. Astonishingly, only half of these essential orthopedic procedures are being conducted in a timely manner.
Not only does this leave many patients like you waiting alone in pain, but many patients are so debilitated that they cannot perform daily activities such as work leading to financial hardship.
In this blog, we’ll dive into what this means for you and how Kintec can help you stay active on your feet.
Even prior to the pandemic patients with orthopedic problems were on waitlists. This established a pre-existing backlog of patients in need of surgical intervention. However, during the first 31 months of the pandemic, non-urgent surgeries were canceled or postponed following public health guidelines. In fact, a shocking 937,000 fewer surgeries were performed in Canada compared to pre-pandemic levels. Consequently, the Canadian Orthopedic Association estimated there are now 160,000 Canadians waiting for an orthopedic operation.
Between April 2020 and September 2022, Canada witnessed a nearly 20% decline in nationwide knee replacements, alongside an 11% dip in hip replacements. This translates to even longer wait times with only half of patients receiving knee and hip replacements within the recommended 6 month window.
Moreover, the data underscores the greater challenges in ‘catching up’ from the backlog in joint replacement surgeries. These are primarily conducted in hospital operating rooms while procedures like cataract surgeries can be performed in day procedure facilities or community clinics.
The most severely affected are patients residing in remote or low-income areas, facing waits of 1.5 to 2 years. These regions were disproportionately affected by COVID-19, with residents often unable to work remotely. Many of these patients, or someone in their household, contracted COVID-19, leading to surgery postponements or rescheduling complications, resulting in a cascading effect.
However, the solution is not as straightforward as merely increasing the number of surgeries to address the backlog. The aging population contributes to an escalating demand for hip and knee replacements. Projections indicate that even if surgeries were performed at pre-pandemic levels, waitlists could triple in size by 2029, particularly in aging provinces such as Nova Scotia.
As hospitals struggle to manage the existing backlogs, healthcare workers remain in short supply. Teams are overstretched and staff are leaving the sector after years of pandemic pressure. Additionally, hospitals across Canada accumulated a staggering 18 million hours of overtime, contributing to burnout. This staff shortage has been particularly evident among nurses with a 2% decrease in the number of registered nurses between 2020 and 2021.
Enduring extended surgical wait times while grappling with persistent pain and the inability to perform daily activities is a distressing reality for many Canadians. A 2023 study conducted in Alberta shed light on the consequences of these prolonged waits. It revealed a correlation between excessive wait times for surgeries and a decline in physical well-being, heightened anxiety, and diminished social interactions. The collective findings of the study underscore the undeniable impact of prolonged surgical wait times on overall quality of life.
Further delving into the issue, the study highlighted the detrimental effects of postponed surgeries on procedural outcomes. Particularly for individuals seeking orthopedic interventions, delayed surgeries often translate to the progression of their conditions. This unfortunate progression not only complicates the surgical procedures but also amplifies the likelihood of suboptimal outcomes from a postponed surgery
As pain intensifies and mental well-being deteriorates, patients frequently find themselves unable to carry out routine activities or fulfill work obligations. One study estimates that a significant portion—ranging from 20% to 45%—of orthopedic patients experience some degree of financial strain stemming from delayed surgeries. The repercussions are evident, with thousands of patients contending with job loss, reduced income, or the imposition of shortened work hours due to persistent pain. In a bid to seek relief, some patients are resorting to paying out of pocket for private procedures such as MRI scans or cortisol injections.
For patients navigating the realm of pain management, an alarming trend emerges as more physicians lean toward advocating narcotics for conditions like knee osteoarthritis to alleviate pain. However, it’s crucial to recognize that this approach merely treats pain without tackling the underlying issue. Dr. Dielwart, President of the British Columbia Orthopaedic Association, has observed the emergence of addiction among patients in light of the surgical crisis. This alarming consequence underlines the inherent risk of relying solely on narcotics. Importantly, narcotics are ill-suited to address conditions that could be effectively treated through surgical interventions, further highlighting the pressing need for timely and appropriate medical care.
Contact Kintec today to schedule an appointment with a Candian Certified Pedorthist and build your conservative treatment plan. Our pedorthists will perform a comprehensive biomechanical examination. Our assessment begins with gaining insights into your lifestyle. Then, we utilize a biomechanical assessment and video gait analysis to gain a deeper understanding of how the mechanics of your feet are impacting the alignment of your legs and the overall functioning of your body.
Kintec’s Canadian Certified Pedorthist will carefully evaluate your medical history and assessment results. Based on their findings, they will develop a personalized treatment plan that includes conservative treatment options. The goal is to remove barriers to activity so that you can stay active on your feet
But it doesn’t end there! While we know that 85% of patients will report improvement in symptoms, it is also important for us to know if treatment plans need to be adjusted. We capture this information through an email questionnaire that is sent out 3 weeks after your appointment.
Your pedorthist personally reviews your survey responses in order to check the progress on your original presenting issue. They want to make sure you are improving and getting back to the things you love!
Exercises that develop flexibility of your joints and muscles, endurance of your cardiovascular system, and strength of your muscles are one of the best ways to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Exercising can also aid in weight loss, which reduces pressure on your joints with each step.
Choose exercises that are non-weight bearing or partial weight bearing in order to maintain your activity level without causing more pain.
Water aerobics classes, swimming, or simply walking at a fast pace through the shallow end of a pool all work to strengthen muscles while taking pressure off your joints.
Using trekking poles can also reduce the impact on your knees and hips while walking or hiking. They allow you to use more muscle, burn more calories, and stay more comfortable than standard walking or hiking. Also, because the effort is distributed throughout your body, it is easier to work harder.
For orthopedic conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, bracing may be an effective way to provide pain relief.
An unloader knee brace is characterized by a semi-rigid or rigid frame with strategic strapping and hinges. If you have medial or lateral OA, your brace fitter may recommend an unloader knee brace for you.
Unloader braces are designed to restrict excessive medial or lateral (side-to-side) movements in your knee without restricting flexion and extension (front-to-back). They redistribute the forces on your knee where the cartilage is wearing away.
To learn more about the right brace for you click here.
Over pronation of your feet will cause your knees to internally rotate and can increase the pain caused by osteoarthritis. Custom foot orthotics are used to help control the motion of your feet and ankles, which in turn provide relief to your knees.
In particular, the custom V.D.O.O insole is the first ever insole design to specifically treat knee osteoarthritis. It is university tested to not only reduce symptoms but to also unload your knee!
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory cream can be an effective way to temporarily relieve joint pain. P3 Cream (above) contains a combination of essential oils, including peppermint and eucalyptus, instead of harsh ingredients like alcohol, which can cause skin dryness.
Proper footwear is crucial to staying safe and healthy while being active. Worn out or ill-fitting footwear can negatively affect the alignment in your lower leg and cause more knee pain.
A 2023 study highlighted the importance of proper footwear in knee osteoarthritis patients. The study concluded that cushioned shoes alleviates pain and improves functionality compared to a regular shoe in individuals with knee OA.
At Kintec, we’ll help you find the perfect shoe for your conditions! Starting with our state-of-the-art FitScan, we will produce a 3D model of your foot (down to the last millimeter!) that helps us both understand your foot size and shape like never before.
Next, we’ll ask questions about your lifestyle, lifestyle, activities and any barriers you may have to your movement. With this information, we will pair you with footwear that supports your needs.
Book your FREE orthotic assessment today! Our goal with assessment and treatment is to: