Knee replacement surgery can greatly help patients to regain their mobility and independence. However, around one in five patients who undergo the procedure experience ongoing pain.
Now, a new study carried out by researchers at the University of Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust, has revealed a technique to reduce the pain that some patients experience in the knee replacement recovery period. Known as the STAR care pathway, below we will look at what the study found and how it might help patients.
What is the STAR care technique?
The STAR (Support and Treatment After Joint Replacement) care pathway consists of:
- Support within a clinical setting run by trained health professionals after three months
- Detailed pain questionnaires and tests
- Phone call follow ups/monitoring
Within three months of having the knee replacement, patients were provided support and treatment during an hour-long clinic appointment. They were also required to fill out detailed questionnaires about their pain, and X-rays and a blood test were taken to assess the joint and check for infection. If needed, they were also referred to specialists.
Over a 12-month period, patients were contacted over the phone at least six times to see how they were getting on. This also ensured they had received their referral if needed.
What did the knee replacement recovery study find?
Eight NHS hospitals were involved in the UK study, including a total of 363 participants. Patients who experienced chronic pain within three months of undergoing a knee replacement, were randomly assigned a treatment plan. Some were assigned the STAR care pathway, while other patients underwent usual care or a combination of STAR and usual treatment.
The results showed that after six and 12 months, those following the STAR care pathway experienced less pain than those receiving usual care. It also halved the hospital re-admission rate and reduced the amount of time patients needed to stay in hospital for inpatient admissions.
These findings aren’t just great for patients, they are also cost effective for the NHS. It is estimated the STAR care pathway could save the NHS a total of £14 million annually.
The importance of follow-up support after knee replacement
The new study proves promising for patients, and the STAR care pathway has already been introduced into the North Bristol hospital and is likely to start being rolled out across the UK. It highlights the need for follow-up support in terms of patient care.
Undergoing a knee replacement can lead to chronic pain in some patients. The STAR care pathway provides NHS patients with the individual support and treatment they need to reduce pain and improve quality of life. At Fortius Clinic, Mr Jonathan Webb’s patients benefit from the Enhanced Recovery Pathway. After surgery, the ERP focuses on getting patients moving their new joint as soon as possible, supported by effective pain relief. It also recognises the importance of the psychological aspect of recovery, offering information and support that helps patients to make informed choices.