Tonight I watched SBS TV programme “INSIGHT” and people were talking about “Joint Operations”.

After that I checked out the SBS website and found this article.

How do you know when surgery is the best option and who makes the call?

By age 31, Rhys Donnan had undergone 11 operations on his knees.

He started having problems with his knees as a junior footballer at 13, and had his first operation at 18. From there, he underwent many more procedures – and revisions of those procedures – at one point having operations every 18 months.

“To be honest, I’ve become fairly blasé about [surgery] in the end,” he tells Jenny Brockie on this week’s episode of Insight. “I’d had so many … it just seemed the natural course of action.”

About a million orthopaedic surgeries are done each year in Australia. Many of these are joint replacements or spinal surgeries to treat osteoarthritis. Hip and knee replacements alone cost the health system more than any other hospital procedure – over $2 billion a year.

And some of these surgeries are on the rise. A Victorian study found that between 1994 to 2014, the number of hip replacements done went up 175 per cent, while knee replacements went up 285 per cent.

But the evidence for many commonly performed operations is far from clear cut.

Research suggests that about half of orthopaedic procedures have no scientific evidence to prove they work better than non-surgical treatments, and another quarter are no more effective than alternatives such as physiotherapy, exercise and weight loss.

Orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Ian Harris, says that some operations, such as spinal fusions, are more controversial.

“The best evidence we have is that it is not better than a structured non-operative alternative, such as physiotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy,” he says.

After suffering debilitating back pain for several years, Simone Smith felt surgery was her only option.

“I had done everything, imaging, traction, physios, chiros, osteos … I can remember having to sit in the bottom of the shower because I couldn’t stand,” she tells Jenny. She says her surgery worked well, and helped ease her pain.

Jessica King also underwent spinal surgery. She says she wasn’t given any other options after hurting her lower back while pregnant.

“I feel like it was probably the most drastic sort of step, and I went there too soon,” she says. Jess still has ongoing nerve pain and numbness.

By Nicola McCaskill

When I watched the patients talking, about their experience undergoing those procedures, I  saw the pain and fear still in their eyes.

I  felt deeply sorry for these patients. In my opinion, there are really much better options for most of these “victims”. Most of them did not have to go through all those long days of pain and sufferings.

I felt sorry too for the doctors. I could see embarrassment in the faces of some specialists there among the audience.

If these doctors had the knowledge of TCM…if they had not been so narrow-minded…if they had been able to offer a different view, another option, the stories could surely be different.

Osteoarthritis is a common disease not only in Australia, but in many countries. It is an illness that needs a longer process of recovery, but it is not that difficult to deal with. Surgery and joint replacement might be a quick fix, but it is never the best solution.

There are many reasons to osteoarthritis, mostly as a result of long exposure to cold, moisture environment that causes inflammation of the joints. For elderly, the ageing process plus living under humid conditions is a key factor. For the young, sports injury is often the direct cause.

For joint pain by inflammation, it’s quite easy to ease pain using common herbs. For the elderly, herbal plaster is a better solution together with acupuncture and moxibustion. For the youth with bone damages, surgery might be necessary to set the joints right, but the process of recovery shall rely on other means. On most occasions, plastic replacements shall be avoided.

Especially for young people or people under 40, they still have a long way to go in life. They are going to get married, have children, and more dreams in life. Please don’t ruin their dreams.

The causes may be more complicated, and treatments vary. Today I am not going into detail; we will have many more hours to talk about this in the future.

Here I just want to stress that as a doctor or specialist, we must be open-minded, open to all other options and solutions. Don’t be a frog watching at the bottom of the well.

Treat the patients as they are your own family members, your wife or kids. Feel their pain, have mercy for their sufferings, and always give the best solution.

Talk to you tomorrow.





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