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CHICAGO – The downstream results of the COVID-19 crisis could have real consequences in residents’ mental health if delays in elective procedures drag on, two local doctors said.

“I see patients on all ends of the spectrum someone who really could wait a little bit, but also a lot of patients who just waited a long time to begin with,” Dr. Richard Berger said at Rush.

Dr. Berger typically performs 1,500 hip and knee replacements a year. In the last two weeks, he’s done zero.

“I have lots of patients who are now suffering because of increased pain,” Dr. Berger said. “Because they have to wait.”

Most joint replacements are considered elective procedures, which have been suspended to preserve resources for COVID-19 patients.

“Right now, we’re doing 10 or 20 percent as many procedures as we normally do so a dramatic decrease and I think that’s as it should be,” said Dr. Domb with the American Hip Institute.

The doctor said the stay-at-home order consisting of isolation is a formula for depression and anxiety.

“There is a huge human toll to those human health issues that is going to be a whole lot harder to measure than the consequences of the virus itself,” Dr. Domb said.

It’s a secondary health crisis that may bleed into other areas of medicine.

“If women can’t get mammograms, we will see a secondary health care crisis of women with undetected breast cancer,” Dr. Domb said. “If people can’t have their diabetes managed or can’t have their heart disease managed or can’t have preventative cancer screenings, we will see secondary crises in all of those departments.”

The government is allowing doctors to rely on medical ethics to make treatment decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Dr. Domb said he’s still performing some surgeries if he and the patient agree it’s absolutely necessary.

“A patient is the only person who can feel their pain and they know if their pain is getting worse,” Dr. Domb said.

For Alyson Rudd, pain drove her to have a hip defect repaired last week.

“I’ve been in increasing pain for the last few months,” said Rudd. “So for me, I had decreased mobility and increased pain every day so it was something I felt needed taking care of so I could move on.”

Teresa Wilson’s hip replacement was canceled, twice, as COVID-19 restrictions changed rapidly during March.

“I just really wanted to get it taken care of and be able to recover over the summer and get back to normal,” Wilson said. “So that is on hold now.”

While patients like Wilson patiently wait it out, Dr. Berger said to get back to their regular operating schedule, his team at Rush will rely on universal measures already in place.

If something goes wrong during a surgery at an off-site facility, the patient will be transferred to a local hospital, potentially putting them at risk for a COVID-19 infection.