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Joint replacements on the rise as techniques, technology improve

As Via Christi prepares to kick off its first Joint Replacement Education Seminar later this month, national trends are showing that more people are getting new hips and knees – and at a younger age.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2.5 million Americans are living with an artificial hip, and 4.7 million are living with an artificial knee. From 2000 to 2009, the incidence of total knee replacement increased by 120 percent, but it was up 188 percent for patients ages 45 to 64.

“In the past, hip and knee replacement was something that was typically done in the sixth or seventh decade of life,” says John R. Schurman II, MD, director of the Via Christi Joint Replacement Center. “Now we’re seeing more patients in their 50s and 60s. There are often factors such as obesity, previous surgeries or sports injuries.”

Ely Bartal, MD, medical director at the Kansas Surgery and Recovery Center, says some of the joint replacement patients his facility sees are as young as in their 40s. Obesity often can lead to early joint replacements, with extra weight causing extra wear and tear.

“Twenty years ago, we would tell a patient to lose 50 pounds and then we would consider surgery,” Dr. Bartal says. “Now, BMI is technically no issue.”

That’s because advances in hip and knee replacement technology – including improved anesthesia techniques – have decreased the risk for all patients.

Technology also has improved two other key factors in joint replacement:

  • Dr. Bartal says the average length of hospital stay two decades ago for joint replacement patients was around five days. Now, it’s just over two.
  • Dr. Schurman says the expected lifespan of the joints themselves – made of metal and plastic – is now 20 to 25 years, up significantly over recent years.

You can learn more about hip and knee replacement Jan. 29 at the Via Christi Joint Replacement Center’s first education seminar. The center at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, which opened in the fall, brings a patient-centered approach that standardizes variables such as operating room processes, medication and rehabilitation based on best practices. Portions of the program also are being implemented at Ascension Via Christi St. Teresa and the Kansas Surgery and Recovery Center.

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