Knee Replacement Surgeries For Older Adults On The Rise

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Researchers recently found that knee replacement surgeries have doubled in 20 years, especially for aging individuals in the U.S.

According to CBS News, the number of knee-replacement surgeries increased to almost 224,000 in 2010. While knee surgeries surged by 162 percent, surgeries to mend artificial knee joints increased by 106 percent during the same time. The study noted that the rise in obesity, as well as current financial practices, could increase the number of surgeries and costs related to operations in the future. The findings were recently featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“There’s a huge percentage of older adults who are living longer and want to be active,” lead author Dr. Peter Cram, an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, told CBS News.

The study focused on trends on total knee arthroplasty from 1991 to 2010 in the United States. Many seek knee surgeries as they can lead to improvements in quality of life and mobility. The researchers also found that the patients were a bit older than 70 years of age. Med Page Today reported that many of the patients were recipients of Medicare benefits. In 1991, there were approximately 3 procedures for every 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries. In 2010, that increased to 5 procedures for every 10,000 Medicare patients.

In general, operations can keep patients in the hospital for a certain amount of time. The researchers found that the average amount of time in the hospital due to knee surgeries decreased from around eight days to 3.5 days. Many patients ended up being discharged to inpatient rehabilitation centers and skilled care. Even though there was a decline in the length of the stay at the hospital, the researchers found that there was an uptick in the number of patients who had to be readmitted to the hospital due to infection and issues related to their past knee procedure.

“This growth is likely driven by a combination of factors including an expansion in the types of patients considered likely to benefit from TKA, an aging population, and an increasing prevalence of certain conditions that predispose patients to osteoarthritis, most notably obesity,” the authors wrote in the article.

However, recently, the rate for the knee replacement surgery has slowed a bit. The scientists believe that the decrease may be due to young adults who opt to have artificial knees instead of knee replacement. The weak economy has also led to less demand for the surgery.

Lastly, the financial costs of knee surgeries were highlighted in the study. The researchers reported that $9 billion had accrued from the 600,000 knee surgeries completed in a year. In particular, one surgery can cost approximately $15,000. An editorial accompanying the article in JAMA also noted that there should be more regulation on the operations. The author of the editorial estimated by 2030 there would be an annual demand of 4 million knee surgeries.

“When you multiply $15,000 by that volume of procedures you’re talking about major money even by federal Medicare standards and this is a real challenge for the federal government,” Cram commented in a video clip provided by the journal.

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