DeKALB – When Lu Riley had her right knee replaced in 2006, she had to spend a week in a nursing home. When she had her left knee replaced in 2012, she was home within two days.
“It was a totally different experience,” the 78-year-old DeKalb resident said. “It was so much easier and faster.”
Years of work went into improving the experience for Riley and other patients like her who need a total knee or hip replacement, explained Dave Smith, the coordinator for the Joint Center at Kishwaukee Hospital. Smith hosted a presentation Tuesday for about three dozen KishHealth System Foundation donors.
Since Kishwaukee Hospital opened the Joint Center in 2011, the average length of stay for a patient having surgery to totally replace their hip or knee has dropped by more than a day, Smith said. Meanwhile, the number of patients who go home after surgery rather than into a nursing home has grown by nearly 40 percent.
In 2010, a patient who had their hip or knee replaced stayed at the hospital for 3.42 days and 55 percent went home from the hospital. By 2013, the average length of stay for the same type of patient was 2.34 days and 92 percent went home instead of into a nursing home after leaving the hospital.
“I couldn’t have fathomed that 10 years ago,” Smith said.
About 1.1 percent of the knee and hip replacement patients at Kishwaukee Hospital have complications and 3.5 percent are readmitted, Smith said. Nationally, 3.4 percent of similar patients have complications while 5.4 percent are readmitted.
The improvement came with the steps implemented in tandem with establishing the Joint Center, Smith said. The new process includes exercise, education and new technology that patients and doctors use before, during and after surgery.
The Tru-D machine is part of that new technology and is designed to prevent infection for patients who have hip and knee replacement surgeries. Kishwaukee has two of the germ-zapping robots, which emit ultraviolet light that kills pathogens and prevents them from reproducing.
The hospital used donations to the foundation to purchase the machines, which cost about $100,000 each.
Hospital staff also involve family members by offering more education, something Riley’s husband, Glenn Riley, 83, can attest to.
“The first time, I was going to leave it to the specialists,” he said. “The second time the coach is there in the room with you.”
By the numbers
Average length of stay for patients that have had total knee and hip replacement surgery:
2010 3.42 days
2013 2.34 days
Percent of patients who went home instead of to a nursing home after surgery:
2010 55 percent
2013 92 percent
Source: Kishwaukee Hospital