Is Drive-Through Surgery The Wave Of The Future?

Doctors performing outpatient orthopaedic surgery

Dr. Vladimir Alexander is a pioneer in the area of outpatient orthopaedic surgery.
© Alexander Orthopaedic Associates

When retired NHL goaltender Olie Kolzig underwent hip surgery after his 14-year professional hockey career ended, his orthopedic surgeon planned something unusual for his recovery. “They felt the hospital wasn’t the best place to recover,” says Kolzig, 45, who played nearly his entire career with the Washington Capitals. “So they set up a hotel room with a hospital bed.” It’s an outpatient philosophy that Kolzig’s surgeon, Dr. Vladimir Alexander, continues to promote.

Dr. Alexander is an orthopedic surgeon and founder of Alexander Orthopaedic Associates, which offers patients the latest in cutting-edge technology and new advances in orthopedic surgery and care. He specializes in disorders of the shoulder, hip, and knee, including total-joint arthroplasty and Birmingham hip resurfacing. He is also a pioneer in the effort to allow patients who undergo joint-replacement surgery to spend their recovery away from the antiseptic walls of a hospital.

With Kolzig that meant a hotel room, but for most of Alexander’s patients it involves heading home to recover in familiar surroundings, aided by family and home healthcare professionals.

“It takes away a lot of the nervousness about being in a hospital that so many people have,” Alexander says. “People are more comfortable and recover better when they are in their own homes. We also have helped eliminate over and under medication by hospital nurses, and have lessened the risk of infection.”

Traditionally, the type of joint-replacement surgeries Alexander performs requires a three to four-day hospital stay, but he believes that isn’t necessary – or even desirable – for many patients. That’s why he began offering the surgeries on an outpatient basis five years ago, making him one of a handful of surgeons doing that nationally.

“This especially appeals to patients who are in their 40s and 50s and need joint replacement sooner than they expected,” Alexander says. “Probably 60 percent of my patients are middle-aged, weekend athletes.”

Not all patients are ideal to have surgical recovery handled on an outpatient basis. Alexander says the best candidates are:

  • younger than 65
  • healthy and mobile
  • have a good support system at home

Alexander envisions this approach as the wave of the future in orthopedics. “In five to 10 years, outpatient surgery will be part of the normal discussion when doing a consultation on joint replacement,” he says. “It is a better technique and a safer technique.”

Olie Kolzig is certainly happy with the success of his procedure. “There is nothing I do that is ever impeded by my hip,” Kolzig says. “No limitations. No aching. No twinges. Nothing like that. The only negative is I set off the metal detector when I go to the airport.”