Do Cortisone Shots Posses Potential Dangers?

Cortisone shots have been used for decades.  In years past, it was thought that there was no real harm or risk involved in having a steroid injection.  There have always been side effects such as dizziness, headaches, trouble sleeping, mood swings, or weight gain but no long term effects identified.  According to a new report, cortisone injections may have more serious side effects than previously reported such as damage to the joints as well as other serious dangers.  

Steroid injections have effectively been used in treating conditions such as back pain, bursitis, gout, osteoarthritis, lupus and tendonitis.  Osteoarthritis (OA) alone affects nearly 5 million Canadians (1 in 6). When medications, physiotherapy and lifestyle no longer work, doctors will often try a cortisone injection to treat the pain.  Although this does not cure the problem, it can be a temporary fix to mitigate pain and swelling to avoid more extreme measures such as surgery.  It can also give you the opportunity to rehabilitate the affected area by reducing the swelling to allow for easier ability to strengthen the joint and surrounding muscles.  

Potential Dangers

Although cortisone has many benefits, there have been more recent concerns identified with regards to knee and hip osteoarthritis.  Some of those include: Rapidly progressive osteoarthritis, subchondral insufficiency ie. a type of stress fracture, osteonecrosis – when bone tissue dies, or causing a delay in surgery.  The study recently done could not provide an exact explanation why these things occur, however, it was thought that the anesthetic that is combined with the injection could be toxic to the cartilage.  More studies would be needed to understand the full effects.

The list of side effects from cortisone shots can be long and exhaustive, however, the advantages can be significant.  It is important to discuss all of the pros and cons with your doctor prior to having one, especially if they are required multiple times or if a surgery may be in the near future.  

Risk of Infection After Surgery

Risk of infection after surgery can be devastating and require further surgery or prolonged treatment.  Severe problems such as sepsis, organ failure and even death can occur if not treated quickly and properly.  While surgeons take thorough precautions prior to the surgery starting, our skin and environment contain millions of bacteria that can still cause an infection.  

There are many risk factors that can make you more susceptible to a post-operative infection:

– BMI > 40

– Smoking

– Poor Nutrition

– Diabetes

– Prior Surgery on the affected area

– Recent cortisone injection in to the joint within 3 month period

– Suppressed immune systems

– Open wounds or sores

– Steroids

Some of these risk factors can be changed or modified to reduce the chances of an infection occurring.  Ways to decrease some of these risks are:

– Smoking cessation

– Weight loss 

– Improved nutrition.  

– Skin preparation by bathing with a topical antiseptic beginning 3 days leading up to the surgery 

– Keeping the incision site clean and covered 

– No submerging the incision under water for the first 3 weeks or until your doctor has said it is ok

– Watch for signs of infection from the incision

– If prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take them as directed until they are gone

Most infections will start within 30 days of surgery.  Identifying the start of one and having it treated promptly could keep it from getting in the blood stream.  Bacterial infections can often be prevented with caution and care.  Reducing controlled risk factors prior to your surgery and following your doctors instructions will help keep chances of one starting to a minimum.

Pre-Op Testing – What Is Needed?

Once you make your decision to proceed with the surgery Health Vantis makes all the arrangements for you. One of the moving parts of preparation for surgery is pre-op testing. The requirements can be different, depending on the procedure you require and your individual health.

The two most common tests the doctors we work with ask our clients to complete is bloodwork and EKG. Blood work within the last 3 months prior to surgery is usually accepted. If more recent blood work is required, you can schedule a visit with your family doctor and ask for a requisition of what is needed. It usually takes a couple of days to get the results and those can also be picked up at your family doctor.

If you are over 65 and/or have high blood pressure or other cardiological issues, an EKG test is required. In most provinces, it is fairly easy to get. Again, this can be done through your family doctor.

If the results of the EKG are concerning, a cardiological clearance is required. This one is not as easily obtained as the EKG or blood work. Most of the facilities we work with can suggest a local cardiologist that can schedule a consult on short notice to accommodate your surgery date. The cost varies per doctor and location and will be communicated to you by Health Vantis upfront.

Sometimes, when there is a GYN surgery involved, the surgeon would like to see the results of the most recent PAP test. This is done to ensure the overall health of the client is acceptable for surgery.

If you are considering private surgery and have any questions, we are here to help!

Sports After A Knee Replacement

Sports After A Knee Replacement

Anytime there is an injury to a crucial part of your body, it is natural to be cautious even after a surgery to protect it.  It does not need to be the end of your active life by any means though.  Many times people do not realize they can go back to doing a sport after they have been properly rehabilitated.  A knee replacement is a great example of that.

The knees bear the weight of your body.  When there is osteoporosis, injury or too much weight on them, it can cause excruciating pain.  This might prevent you from doing a sport you love.  If a knee replacement is necessary, what happens after you have it?  Can you eventually resume your normal activities?

Most doctors would say yes and support you resuming your sports and activities. There is no reason why someone couldn’t go back to running, playing tennis or biking after the knee has been properly rehabilitated.  This of course needs to be done in a smart manner and always under your doctors supervision.  

Your ability to return to sports after a knee replacement will depend greatly on your general health as well.  The healthier you are, the higher chance you have of going back to playing the sport you did before.  Some low impact sports can be resumed within a 6-week time frame.  More active sports such as running or biking could take 12 weeks to 6 months before you are ready to resume.  The decision to start your sport back up again should always be discussed with your doctor first.

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Can Working Out in the Morning Offer Better Weight Loss Success

Can Working Out in the Morning Offer Better Weight Loss Success?

Working out in general is always going to be beneficial to your health.  But does it really matter when you work out as long as you do it?  A recent study suggests it’s possible that more weight can be lost if your work out is done in the morning.  

The International Journal of Obesity did a study in July of this year.  Subjects were allowed to visit the gym between 7a and 7p each day.  The people who worked out before noon had, on average, lost more weight than the men and women that routinely exercised after 3p.  Why is that?

It was noted that the early exercisers took more steps in total.  They were more active throughout the day than those who waited to exercise in the pm.  The amount of food eaten was on average less too.  Overall, the differences were small, however, they felt that cumulatively, it may have made a difference in how many pounds people lost.

Previous studies also suggest working out in the morning will kickstart your metabolism.  This aids in burning more calories throughout the day versus at night.  Doing your workout prior to eating your breakfast or while fasting will burn the fat stores instead of the carbohydrates you’ve consumed through food. 

While the claims are small, there is no doubt that exercise greatly aids in weight loss when done consistently with a proper diet.

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Medical Traveler’s Concern: Do People Die On The Operating Table?

With Medical Travel, people are often concerned about a possible surgery mishap.  It can be a scary process of going to another country and trusting a doctor you most likely haven’t met to provide you with a successful outcome.  One of the biggest misconceptions and fears is that you could die during the surgery.  Yes, that is certainly a risk, however, very uncommon.  Less than 1% of people will die on the operating table.  Most of the time the risk of death and complications occur after a patient is discharged to go home.

Post Operative Care

Preparing to recover after surgery is not just a mental thing to be ready for.  Probably the most important factor is how your after care is structured.  The 3 most common complications associated with death after a surgery are:  major bleeding, heart damage and infection.

Surgery causes an inflammation reaction in your body.  Immediately after surgery, you are most likely going to be on pain killers or Experal, an extended form of numbing medicine.  These drugs can sometimes mask a significant complication such as coagulation, which can lead to blood clots or heart failure.

Research shows that the postoperative care in a home setting is where the focus needs to be.  It is crucial that you have someone with you after surgery for a minimum of 24 hours. Forty-eight hours is even better to help you identify any signs of complications.  Listening to your body and doing exactly what the doctor has told you in your post op instructions is important.  Trying to do more than you are ready for, even at 5-6 weeks out, can cause a significant set back.

Surgery is a traumatic shock to your body.  It needs time to heal.  You might feel like you are ready to resume normal activities because you are experiencing little pain.  This is greatly in part to the pain killers you are most likely taking.  These mask the pain associated with your recent surgery.  Trying to do more than you are ready to because you ‘feel’ great or have a good day, prior to your incision healing, can cause bleeding and/or even re-injury.   


Sepsis is also a great concern.  Most surgeries are now done on an outpatient basis, which reduces your chance for infection.  However, that still doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  If you are traveling out of the US and Canada, the risk for antibiotic resistant infections is much higher.  To avoid this, verifying the hospital is JCI accredited will provide a piece of mind that their regulations are the same as those in the US and Canada should an infection occur.

Complications coverage is available if you wish to be protected in the event you do have a complication, even after you are back home in Canada.  You can find more information about it here.

Health Vantis



Drug Shortages and How It Might Affect Snowbirds

The Canadian Snowbirds are making their plans to head south soon. Recent articles in the news talked about the shortage of drugs.  This has forced doctors to change patients’ doses and/or actual medication. So how will drug shortage in Canada affect the Snowbirds?

How Could It Affect Snowbirds?

For months, well-established drugs have been placed on back order for an unknown period of time. The reasons why are unknown. Some of the drugs are used to treat very common ailments such as hypertension, heart failure, diabetes, and heart burn. Having your medication changed to a substitute drug, even if it is in the same family, can cause different side effects and reduce efficacy. 

Most of Snowbirds will take out private travel insurance prior to leaving for their trip. Medical history plays a major part in the ability to get insurance. If you recently had a medication change within the past 3 months, even if it’s for an ailment you’ve had controlled for several years, you run the risk of being declined or having that particular ailment excluded from the insurance. In the eyes of the insurer such a switch can give an impression of medical instability of the person taking the medication.

The loss of insurability presents a problem to a large group of people who have otherwise been stable on a medication for years. What can you do?

What Can You Do?

If you know that you will be traveling soon, talk to your doctor about it.  Discuss your particular medication situation sooner rather than later. Find out if what you are taking will present a risk for being put on another drug as a substitute. If so, see if they can do it now to allow time for you to be on it so you still qualify for travel insurance. Do not wait until a couple of weeks before your planned trip to do this. It might prevent you from being approved.

Health Vantis


National Cancer Wellness Awareness Day

National Cancer Wellness Awareness Day

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it can be an emotional rollercoaster.  The treatment for the actual cancer may be met, however, there is nothing incorporated into helping the person as a whole.  This includes the psychological aspects of it as part of the treatment in Canada.  National Cancer Wellness Awareness Day, on June 26th, was created to put emphasis on the importance of the psychosocial care as an integral part of treatment as well.

It is reported that the majority of cancer patients start with normal psychological functioning.  Once they are given the diagnosis, they may start to experience fear, worries and other forms of stress that cause significant distress.  Depression and anxiety can quickly set in due to the physical demands on the body, financial stressors, prolonged disability preventing them from working and/or emotional exhaustion.  

Many facilities are working towards treating the person as a whole and not just the cancer.  Cancer Treatment Centers of America  is an excellent example.  When you are treated at their facility, your case is discussed with many different experts to come up with a unique treatment plan.  It is an integrative care model.  Depending on your preferences and needs, your care team might include a dietitian, mind-body therapist, naturopathic provider, spiritual support provider, pain management practitioner along with the Oncologist or Surgeon.  Their philosophy is that treating your body as a whole, focusing on your diet and mental health, are just as important in achieving a successful traditional?treatment.  

For more information about CTCA, please contact Health Vantis for a free assessment.  We are able to get preferential pricing you wouldn’t otherwise get by contacting direct!


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New Sunscreen Guidelines From FDA

Summer is quickly approaching.  It’s a reminder that sunscreen needs to be worn.  Prior to 2019, U.S. FDA guidelines had not been updated in over a decade.  In order to make sunscreen safe and effective, they have recently proposed updated and new regulatory guidelines.

The new guidelines are focused on bringing nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreens, that are marketed without FDA approval, to have more up to date information. The FDA’s proposal will focus on the active ingredients, dosage, sun protection factor (SPF) and broad-spectrum requirements.  They have also proposed better labeling to make it easier for the consumer to identify important product information.   

Sunscreens that you purchase from the store are still safe and effective.  With newer scientific advancements,  experts now know much more about sunscreen skin absorption.  With people utilizing it more often, sometimes on a daily basis, more investigation was deemed necessary to ensure continued safety and effectiveness for the consumer.

For details as to what the proposal will focus on, please visit here:

Stay safe this summer and be sure to always wear some form of SPF that protects against UVA & UVB rays!

Health Vantis


Organ Transplants and Medical Tourism

Organ Transplants and Medical Tourism

From time to time we get calls and emails from individuals seeking organ transplants.  The requests not only come from Canadians but individuals from other countries looking to come to Canada or the US for the surgery.  Organ transplant cases are probably the most complex kind we could ever assist in because there are so many variables and factors to account for when making arrangements for such a surgery.

Black Market

For starters, we cannot help someone locate an organ for them.  This is actually illegal in all countries around the world, with the exception of Iran.  Despite these prohibitions, the trafficking of organs is still done globally on what they call the ‘Black Market’.  People are willing to sell their organ(s), such as a kidney, in exchange for money.  It’s pretty evident why this would and should not be allowed.  

Having A Match As A Donor

Some of the calls we’ve gotten are from individuals that have a family member that is a match for them.  In cases like this, we can help, however, the requirements and financial aspects of having it done privately can be quite stringent and cost prohibitive  For someone coming from another country to the US or Canada, certain requirements have to be met prior to a hospital even considering doing the surgery. 

The out of pocket expense to have an organ transplant surgery would start around $100K USD and go up.  The hospital would not only require proof of financial means to pay for the surgery through a verifiable source, but also need proof that the recipient has the financial means or insurance for the follow up care, which is life long, and very expensive.  In addition, they would require proper testing to have been done on the donor such as a physical exam, immunological tests, multiple lab and tissue tests, EKG, chest x-ray, psychological evaluation, urine samples and several others should the surgeon feel they are warranted.  The US & Canada also require a Visa to enter if you are from certain countries.  This would need to be approved in advance as well.

Being A Donor

Unfortunately, waiting for the appropriate organ can take several months to several years.  Not everyone is successful in finding a match.  One thing you can do to help contribute to those in need is to become a donor should you pass away unexpectedly.  The process for registering is very quick, simple and the database is connected nationally. 

There is also living donation should you be interested.  Living donors can give a kidney, bone marrow and partial lung, pancreas, intestine or liver.  This of course, is out of the goodness of your heart as you will not receive any kind of monetary incentive.  Things such as plasma and blood are also considered donations that are always needed.  For information on how you can be a donor, please visit: https://


Health Vantis