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What to do if your surgery is postponed

You may have noted that Elective surgeries have been postponed during this COVID -19 crisis. Elective surgeries may be pushed back to free up medical resources to care for patients with more urgent needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’ve recently had your upcoming surgery cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering what this means to you and what your options are.

Many surgeries postponed

The Surgical Society of Kenya and other professional bodies like the Kenya Society of Anaesthesiologists recommended that non urgent surgeries i.e. elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacement, be considered non urgent and therefore postponed for the time being, if possible.

Its also advised that patients be evaluated on their need for surgery on a case-by-case basis, considering several variables including, but not limited to:

  • The severity of the patient’s condition and symptoms. Will postponing the surgery bring more harm. eg. Cancer patients if they don’t have the surgery could have metastasis( spreading of the cancer to other areas of the body).

  • The patient’s general health (including the immune system)

  • The individual surgeon’s and facility’s policies and approaches

  • The prevalence of COVID-19 in the local area

Ideally, most patients will be able to make a shared decision with their doctor. Some things to note if you have back pain and can’t have surgery things that are very critical are: Pain shooting down both legs, numbness in the buttocks, difficulty in passing stool or urine or incontinence of stool and urine. If you have these symptoms Kindly contact your surgeon immediately.

Options if your surgery has been postponed

In addition to speaking with your surgeon, consider these potential options to alleviate your pain while waiting to find out about the timing of your surgery:

  • Consider outpatient surgery. Check if you can schedule your surgery to be done as an outpatient. This is also called Ambulatory Surgery. In such a scenario you would go to a hospital that is currently not treating COVID-19 patients, come in the same day of surgery, have the surgery and get discharged the same day. It would be important to discuss this with your surgeon, the hospital and the insurance company beforehand. For this option to work you have to be willing to go home after surgery and cannot be admitted. If you are admitted its important that your hospital stay is as short as possible so that most of the recovery is done at home.

  • Ask for prescription pain relievers. For severe pain, a prescription medication such as an NSAID / opioid may be an option, particularly if it’s limited to a short time frame, for example, one to two weeks. Proceed with caution, however, as even a short course of opioids carries a risk of addiction or long term side effects.

  • Ask for rehabilitation aids that can help. These include: braces, splints that can help you to be comfortable.

  • Keep up with physical therapy. Our physical therapist is offering video sessions. It is important to keep up with physical therapy to the extent possible. You can call our office on 0733 398 390 to schedule a virtual physiotherapy session. This is available from Monday to Friday every week.

  • Try an online consultation. Our doctors are offering telephone consultations or consultations via video connection like Whatsapp. It is important that you keep in touch with your doctor as they know your situation and will be able to best advise you on your pain management options while waiting for surgery. Call our office on 0733 398 390 to schedule an appointment.

As a final piece of advice, don’t rely on general advice regarding your health. Contact your surgeon to ask about any potential risk(s) in delaying your surgery. For some people, there’s a risk of nerve damage or other adverse outcomes if surgery is delayed, while for others surgery is more of a personal preference and will have a similar outcome over time when compared to physical therapy and other nonoperative treatments.


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