Why More People Are Having Knee Replacement Surgery

Over the past two decades, the number of seniors getting total knee replacements has risen by more than 161 percent, according to a nationwide analysis of Medicare beneficiaries.

Researchers from the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine believe that the dramatic spike in demand for new knees is primarily being fueled by a rapidly growing elderly population that wishes to remain active in their later years.

Often reserved for seniors whose pain can no longer be mitigated by physical therapy or medications, joint replacement procedures can help aging adults gain greater mobility and find relief from arthritis pain.

Recent advances in knee replacement methods can now provide elders with more durable prosthetics. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved a knee implant meant to last up to thirty years. Surgeons are also currently in the process of testing out the effectiveness of using synthetic cartilage as a total knee replacement alternative.

Evidence indicates that joint replacement surgeries can help older Americans stay healthier longer by allowing them to move around and exercise with fewer aches.

A separate investigation, conducted by scientists from Harvard University, found that adults with osteoarthritis may be able to decrease their chances for heart failure by having total knee replacement surgery. Study authors felt that this connection was likely driven by the pain-relieving effects of the procedure, which enabled the aging adults to more easily maintain their physical fitness.

More surgeries not necessarily good news

But an increase in medical procedures isn’t necessarily a good thing. University of Iowa researchers feel their study brought up some concerning issues.

The increase in knee replacements also corresponded with a 50 percent decrease in the length of time an elder spent in the hospital following their surgery.

According to lead author, Peter Cram, M.D., less time in the hospital can increase a senior’s risk for complications.

“Our findings highlight the continued concern that declines in hospital length of stay are not a free lunch,” Cram says in an interview on the Journal of The American Medical Association website. “In particular, we can’t continue to reduce hospital length of stay indefinitely without having other downstream effects, complications.”

Indeed, over the past ten years, the number of seniors readmitted to the hospital with infections from their knee replacement surgeries has risen.

Cram and his fellow researchers hope the results of their investigation will help encourage doctors and policymakers develop interventions designed to stem the rising tide of seniors who need knee replacements.

As with any major surgery, there are downsides and health risks inherent in knee replacement surgery that should be taken into account before going under the knife.

Read the account of one woman who discovered exactly why Knee Surgery is a Very Big Deal

“More Seniors Going Under the Knife to Get New Knees” originally appeared on AgingCare.com.

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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor

96 comments

Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer10 months ago

I have been told my my doctor to get knee replacements for both knees! I am using Glucosamin and in three months, and remembering to not sit for long periods AND prayer - I feel better.

Teresa W.
Teresa W.10 months ago

Because someone makes money that way?

Ann Claydon
Ann Claydon2 years ago

I am waiting on a knee replacement at the moment

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe2 years ago

My best friend had knee surgery about 10 years ago at age 50! At the time, her doctor didn't want to do the surgery because my friend would probably have to have the same knee replaced when she is older since the replacement would need to be replaced.
Today, my friend is limping again and does NOT want to go through that again!! I will tell her to check out the new technology.

heather g.
heather g.2 years ago

Active people in Canada seem to love to participate in 'extreme sports' judging by the number of people I notice hobbling around town. I wish they wouldn't involve their dogs in extreme sports, because they are also regular knee operation patients.

I look forward to new developments with regard to knee replacements prior to the time that I have to stand in line for this operation....

Angela Ray
Angela Ray2 years ago

Good article.

GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D.2 years ago

For me, knee replacement is a future possibility. There needs to be a revamping of hospital stay lengths. Sometimes Medicare makes you leave the hospital and go to a nursing home for therapy because it's cheaper. The nursing home then tries to get you to go to a long term facility where you'll be transferred to the Medicaid program. It can get very confusing to seniors.

My mother just went through this with her hip replacement. That nursing home tried to tell her she couldn't go home, instead she needed to go to their long term home and sign over her Social Security to pay for it. In other words, they wanted her SSA and by keeping her, they would get it all but $50/month allowance. Be very careful out there and make certain your parents don't get into this situation.

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson2 years ago

I hope I never have to make this decision.

KAREN G.
Karen G.2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

sandra j.
sandra j.2 years ago

thanks