It’s getting harder to schedule joint replacement surgery in the UK. Due to a lack of funding, NHS surgeons are having trouble meeting the government’s 18-week treatment target for hip and knee replacement. Many facilities are delaying surgeries beyond the target period; some are canceling scheduled operations and refusing to schedule new ones.
All of this has patients scrambling to find some help. But there is a silver lining here: patients are discovering that there are other options. Many of them are discovering that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections offer them the pain relief they are looking for without invasive surgery.
PRP Therapy Is Catching On
Salt Lake City’s Apex Biologix says that the U.S. is behind the times when it comes to PRP therapy. In this country, both government regulations and an uncooperative medical industry combine to prevent PRP injections from gaining traction. But in other countries, this is not the case. There are some places in the world where PRP therapy is as commonplace as prescription pain medication.
The UK is one place where PRP therapy is rapidly catching on. Some 160,000 NHS joint replacement surgeries are carried out every year but, as the Daily Mail explains, only the most desperate patients are lucky enough to have the surgery. How many more go untreated because the NHS just doesn’t have the resources to treat them?
The long and short of it is that wait times in the UK are simply unacceptable. Things are especially unsettling for younger patients. Doctors are wary of offering joint replacement surgery to people younger than 50 under the assumption that they will eventually need further surgeries down the road. So if you’re under 50 and suffering from chronic joint pain, surgery is probably not an option. Your wait time would be the typical 18 weeks plus the total number of years you have to wait before turning 50.
Surgery Not Necessarily the Best Option
Another thing hindering treatment in the UK is the growing realization that joint replacement surgery may not necessarily be the best option. At least that is something we are figuring out here as well. Despite being promoted as a treatment option that virtually guarantees the elimination of pain, joint replacement surgery is not all it’s cracked up to be.
For starters, every surgical procedure comes with inherent risk. The invasive nature of surgery means there is always the risk of infection. And in terms of artificial joints, the possibility of rejection is also a concern. There are those patients who end up worse off following surgery than they were prior to going under the knife.
Wait Times in the U.S.
Knowing what is going on in the UK presents an interesting question: do wait times affect joint replacement surgery here? Perhaps. Our medical system is certainly not as backlogged as the UK’s NHS, but patients still have to schedule replacement surgeries a couple of months in advance. What if those same patients could start receiving PRP injections within a couple of days of speaking with a doctor?
The promise of faster treatment might be enough to push some patients into the PRP arena. If the injections work, surgery can be avoided. For some patients, there’s nothing to lose by giving PRP therapy a try. The worst thing that could happen is having to face surgery because the injections didn’t work.
Time is becoming a big problem in the UK for patients in need of joint replacement. Some are turning to PRP therapy as an alternative. Is that good or bad? It’s up to patients to decide.