While in the country of mission, Operation Walk doctors share with our foreign colleagues the most advanced knowledge of joint replacement surgery. The Operation Walk team teaches while working side-by-side with anesthetists, surgeons, internists, nurses in the operation room, floor or recovery room, physical therapy, and central sterilizing of instruments. A typical Operation Walk weeklong mission will often include the following:
Prior to all surgery, Operation Walk surgeons team up with the in-country surgeons to evaluate each patient, discuss surgical options and plan the surgery schedule.
Using patient x-rays, Op Walk surgeons lead discussions with in-country medical students to demonstrate diagnosis, planning, templating and evaluation of joint disease.
Operation Walk anesthesiologists teach anesthesia protocol and applications to the partnering anesthesiologists. Techniques and care are emphasized.
Operation Walk physical therapists hold classes for the in-country therapists on appropriate post-operative and post-discharge care. If available, the out-patient department is evaluated and supplied with equipment to help in post-discharge therapy.
Operation Walk nurses teach classes regarding the post-operative care of joint replacement patients. Medications, pain management, dressing changes, positioning, timelines for suture removal and follow-up care are all discussed.
Evaluation and Treatment
The Operation Walk team evaluates at least 70 patient’s x-rays several months prior to the trip. Decisions are made whether a patient needs one or both joints done. The x-rays are templated (measured) for the prosthesis, so we can be sure to have the proper sizes for each patient. In hip arthritis, the cartilage is worn from the ball, or head, of the femur bone and the socket, or cup, of the acetabulum. The surgeon will resurface the acetabulum with metal and plastic components, then remove the head of the femur and replace it with a metal ball. The surgery takes about 1 and a half hours.
In knee replacement, the end of the bones that come together to make the knee joint (the femur, tibia and patella) are resurfaced. In knee arthritis the cartilage on the ends of these bones is damaged. The surgeon will remove the damaged cartilage and replace the surface with metal and plastic components that provide the patient with a new bearing surface. The surgery takes 1 and a half hours.
The surgeons that are selected as volunteers must operate on at least 200 joints per year. Operation Walk provides some of the most outstanding surgeons to perform these operations and educational programs from the United States. This assures that the team can achieve the highest quality of surgical care for the greatest number of patients.
Three to four months prior to surgery, patients have x-rays of their hip or knee and an evaluation of their medical history. Results of the tests, along with their x-rays, are sent to Operation Walk before departing on the mission trip. This enables us to be better prepared to make an initial screening and to acquire the appropriate supplies and particular sizes of joint implants. Time is spent with each patient and their family members making them aware of what to expect from their surgical procedure. Also great care is taken to explain and demonstrate proper procedures for rehabilitation following surgery. Our physical therapists hold classes for family members showing appropriate techniques for going up and down stairs and walking with crutches, walkers and canes.
Floor nurses and physical therapists all work together with the patients and their families on an individual basis to provide information and demonstration of proper care following surgery. Such things as how to assist a patient out of bed, on and off the toilet, turning on the side, dressing and advancing from crutches to cane are all imperative to know before leaving the hospital.