My Rehab Expert
Nov 18 2017

Post-operative complications and outcomes after common orthopedic procedures


Post-operative complications and outcomes after common orthopedic procedures

Post-operative complications are more common than medical professionals realize.  As rehab professionals, we must educate our patients on the realistic outcomes and recovery timelines after surgery for common orthopedic conditions.  In an ever-constricting healthcare environment, we are in a rare position in medicine to have the time to properly educate our patients.

However, most therapists cannot confidently recall the expected rates of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ after common surgeries.  So, because other therapists and surgeons are too proud to share their ‘failures’, we assume that sub-optimal therapy outcomes are due to our own shortcomings as a professional; not ever considering the countless uncontrollable variables that contribute to patient outcomes.

Truth be told, we can’t undo decades of unhealthy behavior.  Nor can we accelerate the sometimes glacial pace of tissue remodeling.  We can only optimize the body’s capacity to heal.

We committed to this profession to help people.  We went to school with the pressures and expectations to know everything.  When a patient does not achieve their expected outcomes in therapy, we can feel as though we failed.

Except, oftentimes……..maybe it’s not your fault.

Actual footage of an interaction between two therapists in my clinic.

Below, I created a cheat sheet on common post-surgical complications and expected timelines.  I was inspired to write this for those new grads out there (especially my wife who still has days where she comes home distraught because she ‘failed’ one of her patients that day).

Disclaimerthe attached form is to provide general information.  There will always be exceptions.  Though the provided information is referenced, it is not gospel.  Please use your clinical acumen when educating your patients.  Also, this does not exonerate therapists from all failings in rehab.  Still be good at your job.


Click on the link below to download our reference sheet

Post Op Outcomes Reference Sheet


If you found this beneficial, no doubt others will too.  Please share so there will be less emotional outbursts in rehab clinic offices across the country.


By: Chris Hart, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS

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