The number of knee replacements is predicted to increase sevenfold over the next 15 years. The most rapidly growing age segment is the patient from 45 to 64 years of age. This has gone from 30% of total knee replacements in 1999 to 41% of knee replacements in 2008. There are several reasons for this rapid increase in the number of knee replacements in middle aged patients.
First of all, baby boomers are hitting their 60s and continue to be active throughout their adult life. There are a greater number of sports injuries and subsequent arthroscopic surgical treatments of the knee, all of which can lead to an increase in osteoarthritis down the road. Patients are no longer willing to sit on the sidelines and give up various activities. They desire to get back to the sports and recreational activities that have kept them fit. There is a greater demand on the part of the patients and more confidence on the part of orthopedic surgeons in their ability to provide well functioning joints in progressively younger patients. There has also been an increase in direct to consumer marketing by various implant companies touting the benefits of joint replacement surgery. All of these factors have lead to a significant increase in the number of patients seeking joint replacement.
It should be remembered that there are many steps that can be utilized prior to considering surgery. These include loosing weight and improving your overall physical conditioning, which will decrease the stress on the compromised joint, the use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and strengthening programs to build muscles. It is hoped that with the current focus on health and fighting the obesity epidemic that we will take some weight off our arthritic joints and improve our overall health.
—William P. Barrett, MD