How long after surgery until I’m 100%?

Dr David Colvin workers compensation

14/03/2018 Dr. David Colvin, trained in orthopaedic surgery in Perth. David's specialty is knee and shoulder surgery and sports injuries.
How long after surgery

This is a question I am asked frequently.  Unfortunately if a work injury is severe enough to require surgical treatment, then it is highly unlikely that we will ever reach that gold standard 100% recovery. 

One of the problems we face in orthopaedics is that some human tissues have limited or no regenerative capacity.  Muscles have very good blood supply and generally speaking, muscle tears heal very well.  Tendons on the other hand are white because they have very limited blood supply.  It is the blood supply that brings in the healing nutrients that allow tissues to regenerate.  So tendons can heal but they do so slowly and if the blood supply is poor, they may never make a full recovery.

The situation is even worse when it comes to the joint surface, called articular cartilage.  Articular cartilage cannot regrow and damage to joint surfaces is permanent. 

Bearing these factors in mind, an outcome of 95% functional recovery would generally be considered a very good result for most orthopaedic procedures.

Will we ever reach 100%?  Huge advances in “orthobiologics” are happening now.  Chondral transplant, synthetic bone grafts, lubricant injections, and cultured tendon cells are all available today.  And hopefully stem cells one day (probably still a good way off when it comes to knee arthritis). 

Going back to the question, how long will the recovery be following surgery?  Recovery times from orthopaedic surgery are almost always longer than people expect.  Surgeons are notorious for underestimating recovery times or giving patients the best case scenario, not the average or worst case.  My rehabilitation protocols for shoulder and knee surgery have realistic timeframes for return to work, driving and sports.  You can see them here.

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Subiaco WA 6008


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Dr David Colvin consults at:
Western Orthopaedic Clinic

  • These rooms are part of St John of God Subiaco Hospital.
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Dr David Colvin operates at:
St John of God Subiaco Hospital
12 Salvado Rd,
Subiaco WA 6008