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For Patients

Medical Treatment

Medical treatment is always the first option when treating joint disease.

A number of medications can relieve joint pain — and a new group called COX-2 inhibitors, or "super aspirins," do so without the gastrointestinal side effects of traditional anti-inflammatory drugs. Talk to your doctor about these new medications, which are available only by prescription.

Other new medical treatments, including injections into the joint, are also available and have proved successful in relieving pain for some patients. Some alternative therapies are also available.

Complementary Therapies

Studies have shown that some naturally occurring substances can provide relief from arthritis pain and disability.

Widespread studies have not yet been performed on these substances and patients should consult with their physicians on any arthritis treatment program.

  • Hyaluronic acid is derived from a natural substance that lubricates joints. This treatment is administered by injection into the joint.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate have been proven to provide some pain relief in several small studies. A larger study is now underway in the U.S. These substances are found in fluid surrounding the knee. Consult first with your physician before taking these since the substances are unregulated and quality and doses may vary with different products.
  • Capsaicin is a component of hot red peppers and has been show to bring pain relief for arthritis sufferers when used as a skin cream. Pain relief usually begins within one to two weeks of using the cream.
  • Pain Therapies such as acupuncture, deep massage or hypnosis may provide some relief. Learn more about complementary therapies at Southcoast.

Surgical Treatment

Southcoast Hospitals perform more orthopedic surgeries than any other hospital in the region. When you need surgery, volume and experience are what you want to find in an orthopedic program. Southcoast has it.

The orthopedic specialists at Southcoast are using the latest in computer-guidance systems, which give them incredibly precise three-dimensional images of each patient's individual anatomy.

At Southcoast, we perform more than 4,000 orthopedic procedures a year, including more than 800 joint replacements and 2,000 outpatient procedures. And in-hospital orthopedic specialists are available 24/7 at St. Luke's Hospital for emergency care.

With advanced technology, minimally invasive techniques and the expertise of board-certified and fellowship-trained surgeons, the best place for your orthopedic care is close to home.

Millions of Americans each year benefit from total joint surgery — replacing a worn and arthritic joint with an artificial joint that functions in much the same way as the original.

In fact, studies have shown that total joint surgery has increased the quality of life relative to cost, more than any other medical intervention.

There have been a number of new developments in joint surgery.

Hip Replacement

Researchers have developed artificial joints that last longer and function more like the original joint. Most hip replacements consist of a metal shaft and metal or ceramic ball, and a moldable plastic socket.

About one third of hip replacements are bonded to the bone by special cement. The rest receive newer artificial joints that are porous, allowing a patient's own bone to grow into the pores and hold the new joint in place.

Early studies show that the cemented procedure works best in older, less active patients, and the uncemented version may work better for younger, more active patients, since bone can grow into the prosthesis and create a stronger bond.

Knee Replacement

Knee replacements are the most common type of joint replacement surgery. New materials have been developed that give the artificial joint better structure and attachment to the thigh bones. Studies have shown that knee replacement surgery provides almost complete pain relief in 96 percent of patients with osteoarthritis and 84 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Knee replacements are performed twice as often on women, because a woman's bone structure makes her more susceptible to knee degeneration.

New knee surgery: Partial knee replacement is an option for patients who have cartilage damage in just one compartment of the knee joint. Surgeons replace only the damaged part of the knee, preserving most of the knee joint and tissue. Because of this, patients who have this surgery are often walking on the same day and are driving just weeks afterward. This procedure usually provides lasting results for about 10 to 15 years and can be later modified with a total joint replacement if needed.

Another new option is minimal-incision partial knee replacement - a breakthrough in knee surgery that can benefit many patients who have arthritis damage on just one side of the knee joint.

Surgery is performed through a small three- to four-inch incision and just a portion of the worn knee joint is removed and replaced with a plastic and metal prosthesis. The procedure minimizes trauma to the remainder of the knee, meaning postoperative recovery is much quicker and easier. Patients can walk just hours after surgery, usually go home the same or next day and can drive and resume most activities within a couple of weeks.

Patients who have total knee replacement surgery usually are in the hospital for four to five days and then undergo months of rehabilitation before they can resume many activities. Studies by the National Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimate that up to 30 percent of joint surgery patients can benefit from this new technique.

Joint Surgery Program

Southcoast offers a total joint surgery program at Tobey Hospital in Wareham, offering patients extensive support and education as well as the skill and expertise of a highly trained staff. All services are conveniently located right in the Southcoast community:

  • Each patient's care is coordinated by a "total joint nurse" who provides extensive support and education before, during and following surgery.
  • Patients receive physical therapy services before surgery to help condition muscles and joints and speed recovery. Therapy continues in the hospital and after discharge.
  • Orthopedic surgeons use the latest technology in joint prosthesis and specialized anesthesia during surgery helps reduce post-operative pain and speed the recovery process.
  • Staff coordinate post-operative services, including access to a supervised aquatic therapy program, designed to get patients active and mobile as quickly as possible.

Partial Knee Replacement

One of the latest techniques in orthopedic surgery is the partial knee replacement.

Instead of replacing the total knee joint, we can replace just the bad part. So you can limp in, start walking normally in a few weeks and never have to worry about Boston traffic.

Surgical Follow Up

Rehabilitation after surgery is crucial in speeding recovery. Patients undergoing a knee replacement now exercise in the hospital just hours after surgery with a "continuous passive motion" machine that gently moves the knee. Hip and knee patients are encouraged to move with a walker as soon as possible.

All patients receive extensive education and a home therapy program to strengthen the new joint and regain mobility. Southcoast offers physical, occupational and aquatic therapies at convenient sites throughout the region.

Learn more about Southcoast Rehabilitation Services.

Sports Medicine

With advanced technology, minimally invasive techniques and experienced physicians, Southcoast is the best place for your sports injury.

  • Experienced orthopedic surgeons with specialized sports medicine training, practicing from Rhode Island to Wareham, who perform more than 1,200 arthroscopic procedures a year.

  • One of the largest hospital-based sports medicine training programs in New England, with certified athletic trainers who work with athletes of all abilities, serving area high schools and colleges to help prevent and treat injuries.

  • A comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation program, including skilled rehab specialists from across the region, so you can recover quickly and safely — close to home.

Learn more about our Sports Medicine Program and Team.

Emergency Care

With a team of board-certified orthopedic surgeons based at St. Luke's Hospital, Southcoast has added an important dimension to our emergency services. We now offer 24/7 in-hospital emergency orthopedic care for our patients.

For you, this means that you have access to an orthopedic specialist without delay and have quicker access to treatment for orthopedic injuries when you come through our emergency department. Our surgeons also provide inpatient care if you are admitted through the emergency room. Patients seen by our team will also have access to follow-up care in our outpatient office located at St. Luke's Hospital.

It's important to note that if you already are being seen by an orthopedist at an outpatient physician office and prefer to be cared for by that office, you may elect to see them. Just give our staff your orthopedist's name at the time of your evaluation in the emergency department, and they will contact him or her. In some cases, your surgeon may prefer that our hospital-based orthopedic team takes care of your injury.

Southcoast Emergency Orthopedic Services is a program of Southcoast Physicians Group.

  • An Experienced Team: Southcoast has put together an outstanding team of board-certified orthopedic surgeons to provide in-hospital orthopedic care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to their extensive training in orthopedic surgery, our hospitalists were chosen specifically for their skills and ability to provide emergency orthopedic care of the highest quality.

  • Follow-up Care: Our team is able to provide follow-up care for patients they see in the hospital. Follow-up care — including cast care — is available at the outpatient orthopedic clinic, located on the first floor of St. Luke's Hospital.

  • Information for Patients: Patients frequently ask about our hospital-based orthopedic services and how the process works. Click here for a list of frequently asked questions.

Click here for information on Emergency Orthopedic Services at St. Luke's (PDF)

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