Many people continue to suffer in silence with awful pain without knowing the possible solutions that the HPA Health Group has to offer. An interview with Dr João Paulo Sousa, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Coordinator of the Orthopaedics Department of the HPA Health Group, sheds light on how we can take action against these pains and also see an improvement in quality of life.

Firstly, it is important to distinguish between a degenerative orthopaedic pathology and a traumatic one.

Orthopaedic trauma occurs when a person suffers a sudden fall or an accident requiring treatment or surgery to restore full function. While orthopaedic trauma can be distressing and painful, the most common orthopaedic problems stem from degenerative joint disease, which is characterised by the progressive erosion of articular cartilage.

At the HPA Health Group, the doctor explains that he aims to transform what is usually a very isolated medical practice into a collaborative one. Through the discussion of complicated cases with several other Orthopaedic Surgeons, being open to discussion and criticism will result in a successful treatment programme for each individual patient.

“We try to separate Orthopaedics into several sub- specialties, for example, Pathology of the Shoulder, Pathology of the Hand or the Knee, among others. “We have a multidisciplinary approach at HPA, to guarantee the best service for the patient”, said Dr João Paulo Sousa.

One of the areas the HPA Group has been dedicated to for a considerable time is specialisation in knee replacement surgery, which has led HPA to publish papers in International Journals on the subject.

Knee Replacement Surgery — also known as Knee Arthroplasty — can help relieve pain and restore function in the knee joints. “When we have a patient who has a degenerative knee disease and needs to be submitted to a knee replacement surgery to replace the joint with an artificial one (prosthesis), MRI images or extra-long radiography of the joint are sent to a centre in the USA for preoperative planning, enabling the surgeon to plan all the details related to the surgery beforehand. In a conventional surgery, decisions are made during the actual surgery there is no preoperative planning before the surgery,” explained Dr Paulo Sousa.

The most commonly performed Arthroplasties are: replacement of knee joints, shoulder, wrist, hip and ankle.

The success rate of this type of surgery are undoubtedly very encouraging, as the Doctor highlights: “The results are great! We recently decided to evaluate 620 patients with a knee prosthesis, asking them to rate from 1 to 10 their satisfaction with the implant, 50% gave a rating of 10, while 20% gave a rating of 9. More than 80% of the patients surveyed had a score above 8. This shows us that we have a great level of satisfaction from our patients.”

However, this procedure should be considered as a last resort, when all other treatment has failed. “We always try to relieve the patient’s pain first with other treatment, anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy, joint injections and when all else fails we resort to joint reconstruction surgery with prostheses”, he explained. This is because the objective is always to delay a surgical solution, especially in patients under the age of 50.

In terms of minimally invasive surgery, Dr João Paulo Sousa, who has a lot of experience in hand surgery, highlighted minimally invasive hand surgery, which the HPA Health Group has had an important role in implementing in Portugal.

After over 30 years’ experience in orthopaedic surgery, Dr. João Paulo Sousa is hoping to welcome interns in orthopaedic specialty to the HPA Health Group. “We want to be able to train new doctors by creating a service with training capacity here in the Algarve - this doesn’t exist at the moment. It is an issue we have been fighting against for many years and one I hope to see solved before I retire,” concluded the doctor.

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Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252

Paula Martins