Medically Reviewed by Rodney K. Alan, MD
Knee replacements tripled in people ages 45 – 64 from 1997 – 2009.
— American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery
One in 20 Americans 50 & older has an artificial knee or hip joint.
— Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
There is a range of reasons for the growth in total joint replacement surgeries, ranging from more active older adults to more overweight young Americans. Here’s a quick look at this growing phenomenon.
America’s Baby Boomers – those born from 1945-1965 – brought a huge growth bubble to this country along with other changes. The boomers resist aging and are active in droves. Weekend warriors run, bike, golf, dance and play tennis. The attitude of many aging Americans is, “I’m too young and too active to be in this much pain all the time.” Despite the desire to be more active, the human body does wear out leading to the need for joint replacement.
Obesity – the flip side of athleticism — is forcing many younger people to seek knee and hip joint replacements. The extra weight presses on the joints, increasing wear and tear. Obesity has doubled In the US over the last 30 years. Some recent studies have shown that highly overweight people are 3 times more likely to need Total Joint Replacement surgery than people of normal weight and activity.
“A Total Joint Replacement can eliminate troubling daily pain and stiffness, especially for those with osteoarthritis, the major cause of joint problems,” says McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Rodney Alan. “In the case of knees and hips, a surgeon removes the worn, torn and aging bone and cartilage. We replace them using material with metal, plastic or ceramic surfaces. Materials and surgical techniques continue to improve the efficiency and durability of the artificial joint replacements – also called prostheses.”
Knee Joint Replacement
Knees are probably the most common joints to need replacing – and for good reason. The knee is the body’s most complex band and most used joint. It’s actually 3 joints in one – flexing, extending and rotating.
Hip Joint Replacement
In the past, surgeons reserved hip joint replacement for people over 60, thinking they would be less active and the new parts would last longer. New technology has improved the artificial parts. They can withstand more strain and last longer, opening the possibility of hip joint replacement for younger people who will live longer and actively with them.
Hips are primarily a ball-and-joint arrangement. A ball on the upper end of the leg bone (femur) fits into a joint in the hip. The damaged ball is replace with a metal ball fasten to the femur. The damaged hip piece is replaced with a plastic socket.
When It’s Time for A Joint Replacement
You should see your physician or an orthopedic specialist when:
1) Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, no longer decrease the pain or
2) Mobility or the activities in our daily living are too limited and reduce your overall quality of life.
You may also find these articles helpful:
Risks of Delaying Joint Replacement Surgery
Total Knee Joint Replacement: The Basics You Need to Know
Total Hip Joint Replacement: The Basic You Need to Know
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, National Institutes of Health, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, The Associated Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune.