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Should you have an elective surgery during the pandemic?

COVID-19 risk for most patients is relatively low, but patients should consider multiple factors when deciding on when to have orthopedic surgery

By Lauren Glendenning
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Panorama Summit Orthopedics new clinic, located at 68 School Rd. in Frisco, is expected to open in August.
Panorama Summit Orthopedics new clinic, located at 68 School Rd. in Frisco, is expected to open in August.
Taking care of the community

Panorama Summit Orthopedics sees a wide variety of patients with all types of insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. 

“We’re about taking care of Summit County and the people who live here,” said Dr. Gary Benedetti, joint replacement and trauma specialist. 

Its new office location at 68 School Road in Frisco, will feature multiple exam rooms, X-ray imaging, physical therapy services and increased safety measures to protect patients and staff from risk of exposure to COVID-19. For more information or to book an appointment, visit http://www.summitorthopanorama.com or call 970-264-7400.

The pandemic has caused people to think differently about regular habits and decisions such as how often to go to the grocery store or whether to delay doctor’s appointments or medical treatment. 

In orthopedics, injuries and treatments are classified in three primary ways: emergency care, urgent problems, and elective procedures, said Dr. Gary Benedetti, a joint replacement and trauma specialist at Panorama Summit Orthopedics. For most patients, getting treatment in any of the three categories during the era of COVID-19 isn’t something to be concerned about.

“For truly elective surgeries, we’ll have conversations with patients. If they’re young and healthy, the risk of getting sick from COVID is very low,” Dr. Benedetti said. “There’s a lot of disinformation out there and a lot of fear. Most people who are healthy and not octogenarians can carry on with their lives.”

What is elective surgery?

Many elective surgeries involve more chronic problems such as arthritis or back problems. Often the way to determine if a surgery is truly elective is to consider whether the long-term outcome might be changed if the surgery is delayed. 

“If the answer is no — if the outcome would be the same now as if we waited months — we’ll educate the patient on that,” Dr. Benedetti said. 

However, many patients with orthopedic conditions or injuries are experiencing pain, decreased function and an inability to work or play at their desired level, so the notion that a treatment is “elective” is really based on many factors. 

Some injuries should be fixed sooner than later because they become harder to fix over time. For example, instead of doing a repair now, the procedure might become a reconstruction down the road because it’s no longer repairable, Dr. Benedetti said. 

For injuries that need to be reconstructed regardless, such as an ACL tear, it’s the same operation now as it would be six months from now. Again, the patient’s level of functioning and discomfort needs to be considered. 

COVID-19 safety protocols 

Depending on local, state and hospital protocols for COVID-19, surgeons are discussing various options with their patients to make individualized decisions about treatment. 

“We’re committed to the local community and we’re working to protect our patients and staff,” he said. 

Dr. Gary Benedetti, joint replacement and trauma specialist at Panorama Summit Orthopedics.
Dr. Gary Benedetti, joint replacement and trauma specialist at Panorama Summit Orthopedics.

As an orthopedic surgeon with more than 20 years experience, Dr. Benedetti faces exposure to viruses almost daily. He thinks the patients who should be particularly concerned about the virus are those at highest risk of complications — people with preexisting conditions and the elderly. 

“Our hospital here is screening and testing everyone, and everyone in the hospital is religious about mask-wearing and washing hands,” he said. “When you watch people’s behavior in the grocery store or at the hardware store — let’s just say I’d rather be walking around the hospital.”

Panorama Summit Orthopedics’ new clinic in Frisco

Panorama Summit Orthopedics is moving from its Silverthorne location to a permanent clinic on School Road in Frisco, opening in early August. There will be X-ray imaging available, physical therapy services, multiple exam rooms and a small procedure room. 

“The new location allows for a much more interactive, integrated practice,” Dr. Benedetti said. 

Because a lot of what orthopedic surgeons do is dependent on physical therapy, Panorama Summit Orthopedics’ surgeons are especially looking forward to this collaboration in patient care. 

“It’ll be great to walk over give a patient a pep talk,” Dr. Benedetti said. “I have been performing some operations the same way for nearly 30 years, but you get a spectrum of results. A lot of that has to do with the effort a patient brings to therapy.”

The new office, which is conveniently located close to the hospital, will have added precautions in place due to COVID-19. Staff will take temperatures and ask about any symptoms before allowing any patients to enter the building. All patients will then be taken directly back to a private exam room rather than sit in a waiting room to do intake paperwork. Thanks to more exam rooms than in the practice’s previous Silverthorne location, Panorama Summit Orthopedics will also be able to accomodate more appointments each day. 


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