Joint Replacement at Younger Ages

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Bone & Joint Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Here's a little frightening news that nobody seems to be talking about.

Researchers at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) presented two different studies showing that the need for hip and knee joint replacement surgery will double within the next 10 years.

Currently, more than 700,000 total hip and knee surgeries are performed in the US every year. Unfortunately, there won't be enough orthopedic surgeons available to handle that kind of increase. It's one area of medical treatment where there will be long waits.

The researchers estimated that in 2016, 46 percent of needed hip replacements and 72 percent of needed knee replacements will not be able to be completed.

What shocked me about these reports was the source of the higher demand. You would think that more surgeries would arise because of an aging population. Instead, these surgeries are being performed on younger and younger patients.

Joint replacement surgery was generally thought of as a procedure for older individuals, but this year alone (2011), more than half of the patients requiring hip replacements will be under age 65—and that will also be true for knee replacements by 2016.

In fact, the fastest growing group of patients for these procedures is in the 45 to 54 age group, and the number of procedures in this group is expected to grow from 59,077 in 2006 to 994,104 in 2030—nearly 17 times as many.

The primary reason for these increases is rampant obesity. Obviously, if you have a weight problem, you're setting yourself up for many more health issues down the road. If it's hard to understand how tiring and detrimental a few extra pounds can be to your hip and knee joints, try carrying around a 10- or 20-pound sack of beans for a couple of days.

Make sure you put it in your lap before you get up from a chair, the bed, or the toilet. The extra stress it causes will become apparent rather quickly.

Even today, surgeons are refusing to perform hip or knee replacements on overweight patients until they lose some weight. Finally, we have acknowledgement that the weight really is an issue.

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