In November, the Total Joints Section of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Tucson Village Farm hosted UArizona orthopedic surgery residents for a chance to learn about their programs, harvest fresh veggies, explore how produce can support treatment and management of certain medical conditions and wrap it all up with some culinary fun in a team-building cooking class.
Tucson Village Farm is a community-driven initiative located in the heart of Tucson, run by Pima County Cooperative Extension and the University of Arizona. Its mission revolves around fostering healthy lifestyles, wellness, and sustainability and empowering young people to make positive contributions to their communities.
Malnutrition & Orthopedic Surgery
Malnutrition significantly impacts outcomes of orthopedic surgeries, leading to increased risks of surgical site infections (SSI), prosthetic joint infections (PJI), extended hospital stays and higher mortality rates.
According to research, preoperative nutrition assessment and optimization, including glucose control and normalization of serum albumin, can mitigate these risks significantly. Access to fresh produce through community initiatives like Tucson Village Farm can contribute to combating malnutrition by providing nutritious fruits and vegetables, especially for households that may not have regular access to fresh produce for any number of reasons.
Diabetes & Orthopedic Surgery
Diabetes also poses substantial risks in orthopedic surgeries, increasing the likelihood of infections, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots forming in deep veins, usually in the legs), pulmonary embolism (a blood clot or other material getting stuck in an artery in the lungs), sepsis, pneumonia and myocardial infarction (a blockage of blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack), poor wound healing and more.
Tight control of blood glucose levels before and following orthopedic surgery is an important part of minimizing these and other complications. Incorporating fresh produce rich in vitamins and minerals can support diabetes management, offering patients a natural way to improve their overall health and surgical outcomes.
Additional Health Benefits of Fresh Produce
The above are just two of the many ways that produce can be a part of improving health and disease management. In addition to addressing malnutrition and diabetes, incorporating farm-fresh produce into patients' diets can also aid in managing conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension.
For patients struggling with obesity, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can support weight management and reduce the risk of associated medical issues like coronary artery disease (CAD), hypertension, and cerebrovascular accidents (CVA).
Individuals who do have cardiovascular diseases can benefit from the heart-healthy properties of produce, which include antioxidants, fiber, and essential vitamins, all of which contribute to better cardiovascular health. For example, patients with hypertension often benefit from particularly potassium-rich foods like bananas, oranges, and leafy greens, which help regulate blood pressure levels.
What Orthopedic Surgeons Can Do
To help address these and other medical concerns, orthopedic surgeons can offer a number of potential interventions.
Nutrition Consults: Collaborating with nutrition experts to optimize patients' dietary choices, emphasizing the importance of fresh, nutrient-dense produce.
Diabetes Management Consults: Working closely with endocrinologists and internal medicine specialists to ensure optimal blood glucose control before and after surgery.
Referral to Food Programs: Connecting patients with community-sponsored initiatives like those of Tucson Village Farm, helping them access not just fresh produce but also nutritional education.
Empathy and Education: Approaching patients with empathy, helping to educate them about the impact of their nutrition choices on surgery and outcomes providing resources and referrals to support their journeys toward better health.
Collaborating with Bariatric Surgeons: Developing relationships with bariatric surgeons to support more comprehensive care for patients struggling with obesity and jointly establish follow-up mechanisms to track progress and offer ongoing support.
Teaming Up for Better Outcomes
Through initiatives like Tucson Village Farm, patients gain access to the resources and knowledge necessary to make positive lifestyle changes.
At the same time, by understanding the impact of nutrition on various health conditions and the transformative power of fresh produce in healthcare, orthopedic surgeons can play a pivotal role in guiding their patients toward healthier dietary choices.
It's by teaming up with community organizations to share information, learn from each other and take meaningful actions toward shared goals that UArizona and the medical community at large can best support better surgery outcomes and overall quality of life.