Friday, October 2, 2015

More Americans Getting Knees Replaced, And at Younger Ages

The National Hospital Discharge Survey, shows that between 2000 and 2010, more than 5.2 million total knee replacements were performed in the United States. By 2010, the operation had become the leading inpatient surgery performed on adults aged 45 and over.

The rate at which middle-aged and older Americans got their knees replaced almost doubled over the years covered by the study, for men and women, the researchers found.

People aren’t putting off the procedure for as long, either. In 2000, the average knee replacement patient was about 69 years old, but by 2010 that age had dropped to just over 66, the finding showed.

“In the past, the tread amongst orthopedic surgeons was to delay performing a joint replacement on a patient until a person was so hindered by their joint pain that they were nearly incapacitated in their activities of daily living (ADL),” said Dr. Neil Roth, an orthopedic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

However, “that philosophy has evolved,” he said, so that nowadays surgeons “perform joint replacements sooner, to prevent physical deterioration and deconditioning, and to try to maintain activity levels.”

Why is the operation becoming more popular for both genders? According to Roth, aging boomers are demanding more mobility as they age. Joint replacements are getting better, too, he added.

“Technologically, the longevity of knee and hip implants has also improved, lasting sometimes up to 15 years or longer,” Roth said. “While that still may necessitate revision surgery for those patients in the younger age groups, 45 to 64, it may not require two revision surgeries.”

Also, “the surgeries are more sophisticated now,” Roth said, “especially with the use of [surgical] navigational systems, as well as custom-made knee and hip replacements.”

Roth stressed that these procedures remain invasive and complex, are not without risk, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Joint replacement surgery is still a major surgical procedure with significant risks, such as blood clots, infection and loss of motion,” he said.

My Take:
In general, I agree with all the statements made by Dr. Roth. My mother-in -law is recovering from bilateral knee replacement surgery in a rehab center as I write this blog. At 80 years of age, she waited too long and had significant physical deterioration and deconditioning for years prior to this surgery. I believe she should have had the surgery five years ago.

What Dr. Roth fails to mention is the cost associated with knee joint replacement. The average cost in the U.S. is over $50,000 per knee and can run as high as $250,000 depending on where the surgery is performed. By comparison, the average cost for the same procedure in Europe is about $13,000. Just like the drugs, we pay much more for the same health care products here in America.

My mother-in-law’s surgeon performed eight knee joint replacements the day he operated on her. You do the math - hospitals depend on the income from this procedure. If stem cell replaced knee and hip joint replacement tomorrow, most hospitals in the U.S. would go broke.

The Bottom Line:
Knee joint replacement can restore an active lifestyle for those who knee joints have markedly deteriorated, usually from osteoarthritis. For me, I’m going to stay active, watch my diet, and keep the knees I was born with healthy.

Source: September 2, 2015 National Institutes of Health

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