Rate of Recovery – Why is This Taking So Long to Heal?

The healing process following surgery is a broad topic and multi-faceted.  The factors that may affect how well someone heals are numerous as are the different ways in which patients and physicians define healing.  The process needs to begin with a mutual understanding between patients and their doctors regarding the reasonable expectations for their recovery.

How long will they be in the hospital, at rehab, on crutches, in a cast, away from work or home or on activity restriction? 

What are the parameters that define healing?  For example, is it defined as fracture union or return to pre-injury level of function? 

In some cases, even though a fracture heals, a patient may not be expected to return to their prior level of activity.  Does this mean the patient hasn’t healed?  These questions should be discussed before, during and after treatment so that miscommunication or misunderstanding is avoided.

Other specific questions about healing should be addressed by your surgeon.  There may be patient related factors to consider such as poor nutrition, infection, elevated blood glucose, obesity, or medications.  Each of these variables has been shown to slow the rate of biologic healing.  Perhaps there are therapy related concerns such as access to appropriate therapy or therapist education needed to address specific issues such as dressing changes or wound care.  For many patients and most surgical procedures, the quality and extent of post-operative therapy is just as crucial to patient healing as the operation itself.  Ultimately, patient and physician can and should work together to identify factors that may impede the healing process.  As always, prevention is key.  Maintaining open communication lines before, during and after treatment will maximize these efforts.

Written by Dr. Judd Cummings

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