The Changing Face of Joint Replacement
Who’s Opting for Surgery
Taking on conditions like arthritis in the ankle, knee, hip, or shoulder, total joint replacement, also known as “total joint arthroplasty,” is the most popular elective surgery in America.  An effective means of eradicating pain and other symptoms, these surgeries help countless people get back on track through the use of specialized prosthetics. Durable and long-lasting, these artificial joints have improved sufferers’ lives immeasurably.
But the question is: Who are the patients that go with knee, hip, shoulder, or ankle replacement? Since arthritis is closely linked to age—it most often results simply from wear and tear on joints—the average age of the patient is going to skew higher. These procedures are most often performed on older adults over the age of 65.
However, according to a study presented at the presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ annual meeting, things are changing: patients are getting younger, and the proportion is of males opting for total joint replacement has been growing. 
Getting a Sense of the Trends
In a study assessing just who was opting for total knee, hip, shoulder, or ankle replacement, Drs. Matthew Sloan and Neil P. Sheth, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on trends from 2000 to 2014. Employing the National Inpatient Sample database, they were able to track 116 million of these procedures during this 15 year period. Primarily, they focused on statistics surrounding the age, gender, and race of patients. 
The results were stark. While women are still more likely than men to undergo total joint replacement (they account for 62 percent of procedures), there’s been a distinct narrowing in gender disparity over this time; more and more men are choosing this option.  Furthermore, average age is on a downward trend. Where the average of a hip replacement patient was over 66 in 2000, it’s now a hair under 65. A more dramatic decline was seen in knee replacement patients, whose average age dropped from 68 to 65.  Clearly, the face of total joint replacement is changing.
Behind the Numbers
So what accounts for these modest but no less significant shifts in demographics? Drs. Sloan and Sheth noted a couple factors. One probable cause is a well-established rise in rates of obesity, a major risk factor for arthritis and joint problems. Spikes here can have a massive influence: 54 percent of total hip replacements and 74 percent of total knee replacements occurred in obese people.  This has certainly lead to reductions in the age of patients.
Another related factor may be that, since these procedures have become more successful and well-tolerated, doctors feel more confident recommending them as options, and patients feel more secure in electing to go forward with them. As Dr. Matthew Hepinstall, associate director of the Center for Joint Preservation and Reconstruction at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told CNN, today’s procedures are “more reliable and more durable” than in the past. 
To add to that, Dr. Hepinstall also pointed to revised expectations about level of activity for older people. In his own practice, he’s seeing that more and more people want to remain mobile and moving around through their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond.  As such, a person in their 50s may be more likely than in the past to opt for joint replacement. It’s likely that, with an aging population, there will be continued growth in the amount of surgeries performed.
Treatment in Your Timeline
At the end of the day, there’s no set age when total joint replacement is appropriate; this isn’t something just for seniors. For someone suffering with arthritis in the knee, shoulder, hip, or ankle, what’s most important is that the condition is managed. Whether total replacement or another of the many options is the way to go depends on a great deal of factors, and the decision requires careful consideration and consultation with the doctor.
That said, these surgeries are more effective than they’ve ever been. Whatever your age, now is a better time than ever before to consider total joint replacement.
If you’re suffering with arthritis or another disorder of the knee, hip, shoulder, or ankle, the team at Onward Orthopedics can help. These experts employ the latest in best in techniques and technologies to ensure positive outcomes for their patients. Find out more about what they do by calling (800) 577-1693 today!
- Susan Scutti, CNN. 2018. “More Men, Younger Americans Having Joint Replacement Surgery”. CNN. Accessed October 27 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/06/health/hip-knee-replacement-surgeries-earlier-study/index.html.
- Sloan, Matthew, and Neil P. Sheth. 2018. Changing Demographics In Primary And Revision Total Joint Arthroplasty, 2000-2014. http://submissions.mirasmart.com/Verify/AAOS2018/Submission/out/AAOS2018-005902.PDF.