Home discharge safe for total joint patients who live alone, study finds

Patients who live alone can effectively recover from total hip or total knee replacement surgery at home, according to a new study slated for presentation on Thursday at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego.

For the study, researchers monitored the recoveries of 769 total joint replacement surgical patients. Among participants, 38 patients lived alone and 631 lived with other people.

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Researchers identified no significant differences in patient-reported pain levels or functional outcomes after surgery among the patients living alone and those living with other people. Patient satisfaction scores were also consistent across both groups. Additionally, 10.9 percent of patients living alone experienced complications compared to a 9.5 percent complication rate among patients living with other people.

"In the past, most surgeons have been reticent to discharge patients directly home after joint replacement surgery if they live by themselves; instead, opting for such patients to enter a rehab facility," said lead author William Hozack, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and professor at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. "We believe home discharge is appropriate for the vast majority of patients undergoing joint replacement, including the nearly 20 percent of patients living on their own."

Researchers estimated an average cost savings of $10,776 per person for patients who recovered at home, amounting to a total of nearly $1.5 million.

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