Hip or knee replacement surgery is efficient treatment option for people with severe osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) when conservative treatment is no longer effective. It is the only method that can return the ability to move without pain and improve quality of life of people who suffer from severe joints disease.
People who have knee replacement surgery are getting younger. About 10 years ago the great majority of patients undergoing knee replacement surgery were over 65. Today the average age of candidates for this surgery varies from 45 to 65 years. Very similar trend is seen in the age of patients having hip replacement surgery. Moreover, the number of hip and knee replacements has ballooned over the past decade. Today surgeons perform knee replacements twice more than they did 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the number of hip replacements has scored by 83 percent. Several factors are considered to be the cause of such increase.
Obesity is one of the reasons why younger patients are undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery. Growing obesity problem affects more and more people and impairs health dramatically. Not only does it damage cardiovascular system, but also it harms joints. According to the National Health Interview Survey, 33,8 % of obese women and 25,2% of obese men asserted that they had been diagnosed with arthritis by a physician. Meanwhile, these rates stand at 18, 9% among women and 13, 8% among men who are underweight or maintain normal weight. Moreover, clinical research carried out by American doctors revealed that BMI (Body Mass Index – the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) is a significant predictor of age at knee replacement. The researchers studied more than 1.500 patients who underwent hip and knee replacement surgery. The results showed that people with BMI equal to or higher than 35 underwent joint replacement surgery at a younger age than non-obese patients.
Other possible cause that might explain the increase of hip and knee replacements is a growing number of knee injuries and expanding list of indications for surgery. Additionally, world population growth is also considered to be a possible cause of growing demand of hip and knee replacement surgeries. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 6 billion people living in the world in 2000. By comparison, today there are 7.101 billion people living on our planet. Furthermore, young people tend to be more aware about available treatment options and they are more likely to demand treatment as compared to past generations.
Although joint replacement surgery is beneficial method to treat osteoarthritis, there are some concerns about this procedure performed on younger patients. Younger patients tend to develop a condition called prosthesis failure which causes pain and limits mobility of the operated joint. In such cases replacement revision surgery is required. The average durability of joint prosthesis is about 15 years. So, if the surgery is performed on the patient who is 50, he or she will probably need a second surgery. Moreover, the prosthesis durability has been assessed in patients over the age of 65. Naturally, younger patients are more physically active, thus they tend to wear out prosthesis faster. Although, there are no special prostheses for young people who need joint replacement, surgical technique and prosthesis design are constantly improving. Many specialists are working in order to create durable and long lasting prosthesis that would last for years.