If you are over the age of 50, chances are that you know someone who has had knee or hip replacement surgery.
Just look at these statistics:
According to UpToDate, “Approximately 700,000 knee replacement procedures are performed annually in the US. This number is projected to increase to 3.48 million procedures per year by 2030.”
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), more than 300,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States.
So, what does this mean? With each new year, more and more people are having invasive joint replacement surgeries.
An Alarming Trend
A study presented at the 2014 American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) meeting indicated that there was a 188% increase in knee replacements over a 10-year period for people aged 45 to 64.
According to AHRQ, mentioned above, hip surgeries increased 205% over a 10-year period for people 45 to 54.
Why are the patients having full joint replacements getting younger?
Dr. Mark Pagnano, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says that the growing number of cases of arthritis is a major factor in the trend. "Higher numbers of active people translate into more arthritis that causes wear and tear."
Add in the increasing rate of obesity and the stress it puts on the joints, and you can see why the prediction of 3.48 million knee replacements isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Why Should We Be Concerned?
So, why is the fact that joint replacement surgeries are being done at younger ages a concern? Because there are inherent risks in having joint replacement surgery:
- Anesthesia Reactions
- Blood Clots
- Loss of Motion
- Damage to nerves or blood vessels
- Allergy to the Artificial Joint
- Rejection of the Artificial Joint
In addition to all of those risks, many patients don’t realize that the artificial joints that are put in don’t last forever. The lifespan of an artificial joint is typically 10 to 20 years.
So, if a person has a knee or hip joint put in at the age of 45, chances are they will be having a revision surgery done on the same joint by time they are 65.
In revision surgery, your doctor removes some or all of the parts of the original prosthesis and replaces them with new ones.
Although both procedures have the same goal—to relieve pain and improve function—revision surgery is different than primary total knee replacement. It is a longer, more complex procedure that requires extensive planning, and specialized implants and tools to achieve a good result.
The bottom line is this...once you take the joint and replace it with a prosthesis, there is no turning back. You have set yourself on the path of multiple surgeries.
There Is Hope
Many cases of joint replacement are done because of wear and tear of the cartilage, which leads to “bone on bone” conditions.
Advances in regenerative medicine are showing promise for alternative treatments to surgery. Studies are showing that stem cell injection therapy can actually regenerate cartilage.
The result of one such study, by Dr. Chris Centeno, showed “at 24 weeks post-injection, the patient had statistically significant cartilage and meniscus growth on MRI, as well as increased range of motion and decreased modified VAS pain scores.”
With results like this, many people who would normally get joint replacement surgery may instead opt to get stem cell injections. And, with that promise, let’s hope that scary prediction of reaching 3.48 million knee replacement procedures by 2030 never comes to fruition.
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition