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Spike in pre-op patients living life ‘worse than death’ during pandemic – study

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The number of patients awaiting orthopaedic surgery who are in such pain their quality of life is considered “worse than death” has spiked during the pandemic, research suggests.

A study led by the University of Edinburgh surveyed people waiting for hip and knee replacements.

It assessed 843 patients on waiting lists across the UK using EuroQol-five dimensions (EQ-5D) – a quality of life survey that includes questions on mobility, pain, and the ability to participate in daily life.

EQ-5D is scored on a scale from -0.6 to 1, where 1 is full health and 0 is considered death.

Negative scores are considered “worse than death”, with people saying they could not bear to survive in this condition.

More than a third (35%) of patients waiting for a hip replacement and 22% of patients waiting for a knee replacement rated their scores below zero, researchers found.

This was almost double figures found in a study conducted of more than 4,000 patients in Edinburgh from 2014 to 2017.

That research found negative scores for 19% of those awaiting hip operations and 12% for knee operations.

The majority of non-emergency orthopaedic surgery was delayed during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a backlog.

More than 580,000 patients were on an orthopaedic waiting list in the UK at the end of December last year, according to the British Orthopaedic Association.

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Chloe Scott, a consultant hip and knee surgeon – and honorary senior clinical lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, said: “These patients are suffering. Because of the pandemic, elective surgery such as hip and knee replacements has all but stopped.

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