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Joint replacement surgery: New surgery center to open in December 2023

Starting in December 2023, patients will be treated at the new Skagit Regional Health – Mount Vernon Surgery Center, located just north of Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon, WA. 

This new 60,000-square-foot outpatient surgery center and medical office building features a patient-focused design and will be home to a variety of surgical specialties. The building will have four operating rooms, three endoscopy suites, one procedure room, diagnostic imaging and a total of 62 outpatient exam rooms for Gastroenterology; Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) and Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

“This new Mount Vernon Surgery Center will help us better meet the needs of our surgical patients with a facility and environment that is designed specifically for outpatient procedures,” said Skagit Regional Health Chief Executive Officer Brian Ivie. “We are excited to begin this project and have a surgery center that improves access to safe, quality care.”

Outpatient surgery centers are a trend nationally and are often a preference for patients.

Click here for the latest Mount Vernon Surgery Center updates.

Do you need a joint replacement?

Joints aren’t made to last forever. As we age, there’s a great deal of wear and tear that occurs to knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, ankles and wrists. Sometimes, an incidence of trauma—sports injury, vehicle accident—can result in a person needing a joint replacement sooner than typical. Also, genetic factors can contribute to joint degradation.

The good news is that joint replacement surgery is a viable option. When it comes to having a joint replaced, hips and knees are the most common while ankles, shoulders, elbows and wrists may also need to be replaced at some point. Surgical techniques and joint implants have progressed significantly over the last 10-20 years, allowing individuals to realize benefits such as faster recovery and less pain.

Christopher Sheu, MD practices Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Skagit Regional Health. He is board certified and currently sees patients at Skagit Regional Clinics - Riverbend and will perform minimally invasive shoulder, hip and knee arthroscopy, as well as reconstruction/replacement of the shoulder, hip and knee at the new outpatient center. Dr. Sheu points at chart
What’s involved in joint replacement surgery? 

According to Dr. Christopher Sheu, the primary complaints when a joint begins to fail include pain, decreased function and/or range of motion and weakness. “Depending on the joint, you may also have patients who experience instability, locking, catching,” he notes.

When these symptoms become debilitating, it’s time to think about undergoing joint replacement surgery.

“Typically, there's a minimally invasive or small incision along the joint. We take care to preserve the soft tissues upon our dissection down to the joint itself and we remove the diseased portions, replacing that with a prosthetic joint,” explains Dr. Sheu.

Most surgeries are performed in an outpatient surgery center, where patients can return home the same day. And the new Mount Vernon Surgery Center offers patients that convenience, along with an improved overall experience.

“Patients will have a faster and more seamless experience at the surgery center,” said Dr. Sheu. He said he looks forward to more streamlined care, the “latest and greatest technology” and state-of-the-art instrumentation and facilities, including video towers in the operating rooms.

Patients will benefit from better outcomes, less complication and infection rates, along with the advanced technology, he said.

Following surgery, physical therapy works with patients to regain their motion and strength, most commonly after knee and shoulder joint replacements. With knees, physical therapy generally begins three to five days after surgery. This is because the knee can get stiff rather quickly. Physical therapy for shoulders doesn’t start until about two weeks post-surgery.

For the hip, most patients don't need physical therapy. It's a matter of just walking; getting up immediately after surgery. “But, for those who are a bit slower and who may need extra help, we start therapy around the six-week mark,” notes Dr. Sheu. 

Posterior vs. anterior approach

Dr. Sheu headshot photoTraditionally, hip replacements are done in a lateral or a posterior approach. There are different intervals of the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the hip, where surgeons dissect through in order to get to the joint.

This is the most utilitarian and common approach, through the back of the hip. It is an entry point that has more soft tissue and involves a larger dissection, sometimes muscle detachment, and results in a longer hospital stay, increased recovery time and different post-surgical precautions.

With the advent of the anterior hip replacement—a minimally invasive approach—surgeons enter through the front of the hip. “As you can imagine, that involves going through a lot less tissue and allows for direct access to the joint itself,” explains Dr. Sheu. “It's a procedure that has less precautions after surgery. It usually has less pain and quicker recovery compared to the posterior approach. And, a decreased risk of a hip dislocation—which is not uncommon but still exists as a possible risk after joint replacement,” explains Dr. Sheu.

Each joint has a medical-grade plastic liner that acts to dissipate forces and decrease wear. Current technology allows a joint to last about 20 to 30 years. “That probably will get better as advancements in medical manufacturing and implants progress,” adds Dr. Sheu. “It really depends on how much you use it. The more you use it, obviously, the faster it will wear out.

Get back to the activities you love

Dr. Sheu shares one of the greatest aspects of orthopedics is the immediate gratification of patient feedback. Many come to him and say, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Most patients remark upon their increased motion, decreased pain and being able to get back to the activities they love to do.

“I think it’s really important to keep people informed with regards to what the surgery entails and the advancements in medical technology,” said Dr. Sheu. “Patients are recovering faster. They're doing better, they're becoming more functional.”

For more information on joint replacement, visit the Orthopedics section of our website.

To hear Dr. Sheu discuss this topic further, click here to listen to the Be Well Podcast | Joint Replacement.