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Real Challenges in Taking Care of Orthopaedic Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Jennifer Weiss

Jennifer M. Weiss, MD, FAAOS

Any views or recommendations shared in the Ortho-pinions blog are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 

Orthopaedic injuries have not gotten a memo to pause during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Orthopaedic surgeons are still ready and waiting to take care of their patients in the midst of what has become the new normal. 

We are still seeing broken bones and soft tissue injuries in our offices and through phone and video visits.  The most common injuries that bring our patients (and us) to the emergency room and hospital during this “shelter in place” era are broken hips in older adults and broken elbows in children.

A seemingly small but impactful challenge is ensuring that we do not lose connection behind our face masks.  Doctors and patients are now forming relationships without fully seeing each other’s faces.  We must use extra words to demonstrate the care and compassion that we usually rely upon our faces and warm touch to convey.  Family members are not permitted to accompany their adult loved ones in the hospital.  As orthopaedic surgeons, we must remember that our patients may feel more alone now than ever before, and that their family members may feel helpless.  We are replacing in-person conversations with phone conversations.  Be assured that communication remains the same high priority it has always been.

When we plan for surgery in this era, it is important to know whether our patients have COVID-19.  Most organizations have agreed that it is important to test patients.  We know more about how people will react to anesthesia and surgery when we know their viral status.  Testing is rapidly changing, and doctors and clinicians must keep up with the evolution.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is another challenge in the COVID-19 era.  When a surgical patient has anesthesia and is intubated (a tube is introduced into their throat to breathe for them), COVID-19 may be released into the air.  In addition, some orthopaedic procedures may also release COVID-19 into the air.  For this reason, orthopaedic surgeons—and the clinicians and staff that work with them in the operating room—must wear more “gear” during surgery than they did before the pandemic.  This means that surgery may take longer, as some of the measures that we take to ensure the safety of our patients, doctors, clinicians and staff take additional time.  Please know that your entire orthopaedic team has quickly adjusted to this new environment to keep you and your family safe. 


Last Reviewed

April 2020

Contributed and/or Updated by

Jennifer M. Weiss, MD, FAAOS

AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.