The fact that joint replacement surgery is going ahead again is good news for anyone suffering from osteoarthritis. We know from speaking to patients that many people have experienced a worsening of symptoms during the pandemic due to a combination of factors including: lack of exercise leading to weight gain and loss of mobility, the cancellation of non-surgical treatments such as painkilling injections and long delays in surgery.
If you have a date for your joint replacement procedure or you’re looking forward to hearing from your orthopaedic surgeon, you may have questions about the timing of your surgery alongside the Covid vaccination.
Don’t delay your surgery
The first thing to say is that, as important as it is to get vaccinated, it’s essential not to face any further delays in your surgery. We touched on this in our last blog. Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition which means the symptoms gradually worsen. Lack of exercise and heightened stress contribute to joint deterioration so lockdown has been particularly challenging for many people.
Research suggests, too, that many people, particularly those with a higher BMI (body mass index), have experienced negative changes in their eating habits during the pandemic. This has led to weight gain for many, which places additional strain on already damaged joints. Under normal circumstances, the knee joints absorb around 1.5 pounds of force with every step but gaining an additional 10 pounds in weight adds between 15 and 50 pounds of pressure. Damaged joints can become misaligned, leading to further deterioration.
Timing of surgery with the Covid vaccine
We understand that there is a level of anxiety, particularly amongst vulnerable patients, about whether it is safe to have joint replacement surgery alongside the Covid-19 vaccination and if so, when.
We can confirm that it is safe to have surgery alongside the vaccination. The British Orthopaedic Association has put together some guidance for patients to help them decide on the best timing for any orthopaedic treatment, including joint replacement surgery. We are following these guidelines and are happy to discuss your specific case if you need more information.
In relation to elective surgery, the BOA advises waiting seven days after having the Covid-19 vaccine before undergoing a surgical procedure. This applies to both doses of the vaccine. Symptoms such as high temperature are one of the possible side-effects and it’s important that these are not confused with post-surgical complications.
Prior to undergoing surgery, we will ask you to self-isolate and immediately before your procedure we will request you take a Covid test. This is to safeguard all of our patients. We will, of course, follow all of the correct procedures within the hospital, including wearing the correct PPE and ensuring that enhanced cleaning protocols are strictly adhered to.
If you are due to have an injection of corticosteroids or oral steroids to relieve pain and inflammation it is safe to have these alongside the Covid vaccine although the BOA warns that your body may not produce such a good response to the vaccination in this instance. It is not recommended to delay having the vaccine if you have recently had a steroid treatment or you are due to have one, however, if you need steroids to control inflammatory disease this needs to take priority over the vaccine as a flare-up can increase your Covid risk. In the case of non-essential steroid injections, it may be appropriate to delay the treatment to give the vaccine the greatest chance of delivering a good immune response.
We recognise that these are anxious times and patients are likely to have many different questions. If you have further concerns or more questions that are not answered here, please contact us and we will be happy to help. If you are due to receive a vaccine, we are happy to try and plan your surgery around it without delaying treatment.