There’s no doubt about it. The number of hip joint and knee replacements is growing. Most total joint replacements are performed on patients over the age of 65, but in the 10 years before 2009, the number of knee and hip replacements tripled for those aged 40 – 50.
Whether you have Medicare or commercial insurance, it is likely you will have some out of pocket expenses. Thus, the question: “Is it worth it?”
“Any question like this has 3 dimensions,” says McLeod Orthopaedic Specialist David Woodbury, MD. “First is the clinical issue. Is it good medicine? Second is the financial. For the money spent by the individual and their insurer is it a worthwhile investment? Third is the personal dimension. Does it significantly improve your quality of life?”
The answer to all 3 questions is YES. Here is why.
THE CLINICAL SIDE OF TOTAL JOINT REPLACEMENT
New advancements in materials and technique have reduced the complications and extended the lifetime of a hip or knee replacement to 20 years or more. One manufacturer is even promoting a 30-year joint replacement.
Although a knee or hip replacement does not “cure” osteoarthritis – the most common reason people seek new joints – the surgery eliminates most of the symptoms of pain, discomfort and limited movement.
THE FINANCIAL QUESTION
The total cost of a knee or hip joint replacement averages about $21,000 in the U.S., but can run over $40,000. Insurance will most likely cover most of the expenses. However, as with all medical procedures, the patient will have some out of pocket expense.
A 2013 study by the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery estimated that the “lifetime societal benefit” of knee replacement was twice the actual cost of the procedure. This includes returning to the work force, increased income, lower disability payments, and fewer missed workdays.
Another study found that medical expenses fall sharply in the first year after joint replacement. Given arthritis’s impact on the long-term deterioration in quality of life, another study found that both total knee replacement and total hip replacement are extremely effective both clinically and in terms of cost effectiveness.
THE IMPACT ON YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE
Most recipients of a new hip or knee joint are up walking the same day as the surgery, and many are able to climb a few steps within several days. Most people are only hospitalized one to two days before returning home. There is post-surgery pain, but new approaches to pain management limit the joint replacement’s impact on your life.
Boosted by physical therapy, a return to an active, pain-free life is the norm.
If you are considering a total joint replacement, feel free to ask your Orthopaedic Specialist about the potential cost and what portion you might be responsible for. Yet, know that studies and personal experience have shown that your long-term benefits are worth your investment.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Association of Hip & Knee Surgeons, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Journal of Rheumatology, Bone & Joint Journal (UK)