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Less invasive surgery techniques shorten recovery time

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Whether it's the constant up and down of sitting at a desk or the weekly golf outing, most business professionals deal with some sort of joint pain. Every year in the United States, joint afflictions lead to over 400,000 knee replacements and 300,000 hip replacements as age, activity and injuries take their toll. While the baby boomer population ages, minimally invasive surgical techniques are beginning to provide options to patients for pain treatment, with significant improvements in patient recovery time and overall success.

Scott Leggett, executive director of Coast Surgery Center in Kearny Mesa and the Orthopedic Surgery Center of La Jolla, said that thousands of people -- even younger, active people -- could benefit from surgery, but are reluctant "because they're afraid of being sidelined with a slow recovery."

Until recently, many joint replacement surgeries involved a hospital stay of three days or more, post-operative pain and weeks of rehabilitation. That's all changing, however, with the introduction of new minimally invasive surgical techniques that involve a smaller incision without an overnight hospital stay, far less pain and a much faster recovery time.

"Minimally invasive surgery has emerged due to demand by people who can't be off of work for lengthy periods," Leggett said. "It minimizes pain and quickens the recovery process so they can get back to their normal lifestyle."

COAST Surgery Center is a freestanding ambulatory surgery center on the forefront of these techniques. The center boasts a roster of 14 doctors whose areas of expertise cover microsurgery of the hand, sports medicine, spine and joint pain management, as well as general orthopedics. Its doctors specialize in new technologies, including arthroscopic surgical techniques and procedures to treat back and joint pain, bringing a tremendous depth of experience and knowledge to patient care.

While there will always be joint replacement surgeries for which lengthy hospital stays are necessary, the remarkable progress of minimally invasive procedures is changing treatment options for patients with back and/or joint pain. The best part for people eyeing a quick recovery is that many of these procedures can be done on an outpatient basis -- and more and more of them are being done in ambulatory surgical centers.

"Historically, the ambulatory surgical center model has produced major benefits for the patient," Leggett said. "At Coast, our strategy is to provide doctors with the most advanced technology, facilities and operational systems available. This enables us to reduce risks of post-operative pain and infection rates, among other issues associated with conventional surgeries. As a result, we can perform these surgical procedures on an outpatient basis and people can go home the same day."

The key to minimally invasive procedures is the preservation of muscles. Because the doctor is able to reach the joint from the front as opposed to the side or back, the doctor can work through a natural space between muscles. This allows the doctor to reach the joint without cutting through muscles or detaching tendons. Much of the pain generally associated with surgery and recovery is the result of severing these tissues. The incision is smaller, so there's not as much surgical trauma.

"The smaller incision allows our doctors to achieve results in line with conventional surgery, while offering patients shorter rehabilitation therapy and an ability to return to everyday activities sooner," said Leggett, who also serves as the president of the California Ambulatory Surgical Association, an umbrella organization that advances education and appropriate legislative actions at the state level.

But it's not just the incision size that has changed in joint surgery, according to Brent Fundingsland, M.D., the anesthesia director at Coast: "Newer types of anesthesia techniques have also accelerated the recovery process."

With joint disease on the rise, the demand for better surgeries and alternatives to joint replacements will continue to grow. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention says that by 2030, arthritis, joint and related conditions will affect 67 million adults. With those high numbers, the economic advantage of less invasive surgery could be astronomical.

"In terms of recovery," added Leggett, "with these less invasive procedures rehab time is generally faster. Patients can get back to work and return to daily activities sooner compared with traditional surgery, where normally you're out six weeks or more."

Coast Surgery Center is a multi-specialty, free-standing outpatient surgery facility accredited by the Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Health Care. With state-of-the-art technology and anesthetic techniques, Coast offers an extensive spectrum of surgical treatment for truly personalized quality care. For more information about Coast Surgery Center visit www.coastsurgery.com.

Cruz is with Marston+Marston Inc.

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