Hip and Knee Replacements on the Rise

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April 17, 2008 — The number of hip and knee replacements performed in theU.S. could skyrocket in the next seven years, researchers warn, placing anenormous burden on America’s already beleaguered health care system.

An increase in obesity and arthritis — combined with a larger elderlypopulation — has prompted a steep rise in these surgeries. Seventy-six millionAmericans reach retirement age this year, and many baby boomers are rightbehind them. Since arthritis is more common in older adults, experts predictmore and more cases of arthritis in the coming years.

Arthritis affects more than 46 million Americans; it can cause joint pain,stiffness, and swelling. While more common in older adults, arthritis isn’tsimply an effect of aging. Carrying extra weight also increases a person’s riskfor arthritis. Maintaining a healthy weight could make you less likely todevelop arthritis.

Joint replacement surgery is a popular treatment option for those withsevere, debilitating arthritis that causes significant pain or greatly limitstheir ability to move.

Using data from joint replacement cases in the U.S. from 1997 and 2004,researcher Sunny Kim, PhD, with the Robert Stempel School of Public Health atFlorida International University, analyzed the increase in the number ofsurgeries and their cost.

Her research shows: 

  • Hip replacements increased 37% and knee replacements increased 53% in 2004compared with 2000. 
  • Hip and knee replacement increased significantly among those aged45-64. 
  • Medicare paid for most procedures. 
  • Private insurance payments had steeper increases.

Kim published her findings in the April 14 issue of Arthritis Care &Research. She writes that 600,000 hip replacements and 1.4 million kneereplacements could be performed in the year 2015 if current trends persist.

“Public health education is critically important to reduce theproportion of people who are overweight as well as to manage arthritis atearlier stages,” she says in a news release. “At the same time, giventhe steeply increasing trends of joint replacements and the expected number ofjoint revisions needed, the health care community should be prepared for thisupcoming demand of surgical loads and its economic burden on government andprivate insurance systems.”

(Considering a knee replacement? Already had one?  Read one man’sjourney from surgery to full recovery, and share your own story on WebMD’s PainManagement blog.)

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