A study presented at the 2014 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) meeting showed that knee replacement surgeries have increased 120 percent over the past decade. This stark increase was mostly due to an influx of younger patients. Researchers noted that surgeries rose by 89 percent among patients in the 65 to 84 age bracket, while they rose an astonishing 188 percent among patients in the 45 to 64 age bracket.
Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, co-director of Joint Replacement Research at Hospital for Special Surgery, has witnessed this surge of younger patients at his own facility.
“Clearly, times have changed regarding our treatment of patients with knee and hip arthritis,” he says. “In the not-so-distant past, most younger patients with advanced arthritis were told to live with the pain or cut back on their activities, and wait until later in life to have joint replacement. Many younger patients…are still told to wait, despite the fact that their quality of life suffers.”
According to Westrich, minimally invasive techniques and improved implant designs have made surgery a more appealing option for younger patients, and it’s changing the way surgeons look at joint replacement as well. New implants have a more natural feel, offer improved range of motion, and are expected to last upwards of 20 years. For patients who lead active lifestyles, this makes joint replacement surgery an especially appealing long-term solution (Source: Hospital for Special Surgery).
While joint replacement surgery can offer improved joint function and greater quality of life for younger patients, there is the concern of revision surgery further down the line. The AAOS estimates that 10 percent of patients who undergo joint replacement will require a revision at some point in the future. The younger the patient is at the time of joint replacement surgery, the sooner they will face the possibility of revision surgery. In cases where the patient is especially young, conservative therapies such as over-the-counter pain reliever and corticosteroid injections may be the best option until surgery becomes a necessity (Source: Arthritis Foundation).