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Surge of Knee and Hip Replacements in the U.S.

What are the reasons and effects of the skyrocketing number of joint replacements?

According to research presented by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), there were, as of 2014, 2.5 million Americans living with an artificial hip and 4.7 million with an artificial knee. While obviously the aging of the population contributes to these somewhat astonishing statistics, the increase in joint replacements among the middle-aged is also remarkable. The same study showed an increase in knee and hip replacements in patients ages 45 to 64 by 188 percent and 123 percent, respectively. Clearly, in the intervening years between the study and the present, the number and percentages of such surgeries has only increased.

Reasons for Increasing Number of Joint Replacements

In addition to the “graying” of the nation’s population, and the increase in the population in general, the tremendous technological advances that have been made, and continue to be made, in joint replacement operations, have made these surgeries more available and more desirable. As the procedures become more advanced, causing less pain and necessitating shorter recovery time, they are more appealing not only to those for whom they are the only hope of living pain-free, but for those who want to regain the mobility they need to maintain their active lifestyle.

Prevalence of Joint Replacements Compared to Other Health Issues

Dr. Daniel Berry, professor of orthopaedics at the Mayo Clinic and the senior author of the research study mentioned, states that “This large number highlights how these operations have kept a substantial part of our population mobile despite severe arthritis, something that wouldn’t have been possible before these technologies were available…These prevalence estimates are within the same ballpark as coronary heart disease, and much higher than heart failure or stroke.”

Positive Socioeconomic Impact of Joint Replacements

Not only do knee and hip replacements provide increased mobility and quality of life for individual patients, but have been demonstrated to be cost-effective treatments. In a study conducted by health economists in 2013, working with a model of the savings accrued by individuals able to return to work after surgery, the researchers approximated the net benefit to society as between $10,000 and $30,000 per patient.

The Demographics of Joint Replacements

The statistics show that .8 percent of Americans are living with a hip replacement and 1.5 with a knee replacement. More women are living with prosthetic hips and knees than their male counterparts.

Not unexpectedly, the older people get, the higher the percentage of joint replacements.
Hip and knee replacements among adults 50 and older are 2.3 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

By the time patients reach 80 years of age, the prevalence of total hip replacements increases to nearly 6 percent and of total knee replacements to nearly 10 percent. The states with the fewest total joint replacements are Alaska and Hawaii and those with the highest are California, Florida and Texas. Importantly, although shifts in statistics relative to age are changing as patients elect to have joint replacements at younger ages, racial disparity continues to be well-documented with many more white patients having these surgeries than people of color. Clearly, this indicates that a significant portion of the population remains underserved.
If you are having significant joint pain as a result of osteoarthritis, you should consult with a board certified orthopaedic surgeon who specializes various up-to-date types of hip and knee replacement. A needed joint replacement could result in a major improvement in your quality of life.


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