Definition and Overview

Orthopaedic follow-up is an appointment with a doctor who specializes in musculoskeletal conditions after treatment has been completed.

Orthopaedics is a branch of medicine that revolves around conditions relating to and affecting the musculoskeletal system, which includes the bones, joints, tendons, muscle and ligaments. These are responsible not only for creating the foundation of the body but also providing support, allowing human beings to perform movements.

Many conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system require treatment from an orthopaedic specialist. These include fractures, sprains and strains and chronic pain as well as work-related musculoskeletal disorders such as tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome. Treatment options for such conditions range from medications to therapy and surgery. Other sub-branches of orthopaedics are sports medicine and physical and occupational therapy. Orthopaedic doctors may also specialize in certain fields, like paediatrics (children) and geriatrics (older people).

Although orthopaedics focuses on concerns that affect the musculoskeletal system, it can also address pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, which can lead to diabetic foot, a condition characterized by the lack of sensation in the foot.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

An orthopaedic follow-up is recommended for:

  • Patients who have undergone surgery – The field has already taken huge strides in making orthopaedic surgeries, such as knee and hip replacement, as safe as possible. For example, many hospitals are now utilizing robotic arms to carry out more precise surgical techniques. However, it does not mean that these surgeries are 100% risk-free. As such, a follow-up is conducted so the surgeon and the rest of the patient’s orthopaedic team can keep track of the patient’s recovery and progress both in the short and long term.

  • Patients who are experiencing pain – In many instances, a follow-up becomes unnecessary as the patient fully recovers and the chances of morbidity becomes very low. However, if the patient suddenly experiences pain, particularly in the previously injured area, it warrants an investigation through a follow-up.

  • Individuals who need therapy – Rehabilitation is a common component of recovery. Physical or occupational therapists help orthopaedic patients regain the full function of the injured site or at least allow them to live normally despite their condition. A follow-up is recommended to monitor the patient’s progress during therapy.

  • Those who have other underlying conditions – Conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune disease can have a profound effect on the quality of life during and after treatment. The follow-up can be helpful in creating a customized program that also considers the impact of these pre-existing diseases.

How Does the Procedure Work?

An orthopaedic follow-up takes place after the treatment program has been completed. This means that the patient has already received his discharge papers, all medications have been completed, and the patient has been allowed to continue treatment at home.

The follow-up care is discussed before the patient leaves the hospital where schedules for appointments as well as wound, medication, and pain management are covered.

A typical follow-up lasts for about 30 minutes to an hour. The interval is usually closer a few days or months after discharge. If the patient’s recovery progresses nicely, the follow-up becomes periodic, like once or twice each year.

During the follow-up, the doctor conducts a medical review, which includes comparing the patient’s current state of health just right after he was discharged from the hospital. During this time, the patient may already be seeing other specialists like a physical or occupational therapist. Their reports and medical records are shared with the rest of the patient’s orthopaedic team whenever necessary. Depending on the patient’s progress, the treatment program can be modified. For example, the dosage of pain medications and the number of physical therapy sessions may be reduced or increased to address the current needs of the patient.

Possible Risks and Complications

Many health experts criticize the “outdated” mode of communication used in making an orthopaedic follow-up. For example, many providers still prefer calling the patient manually instead of using automated systems. This can create communication problems as the staff may forget doing it or the patient doesn’t receive the message. Technologies, such as apps, have been helpful in overcoming such challenges. There are also some doctors who are now adopting teleconferencing wherein they follow-up with their patient through video calls. This ensures that the doctor can carry out the follow-up care anytime and anywhere.

Reference:

  • Tinanoff N. Malocclusion. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 301.
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