With improved prostheses and the fact that a number of Baby Boomers may not be slowing down, a recent news report shows that it is becoming more common for people in their 40s and 50s to seek relief from worn-out joints through a total joint replacement. The primary cause of this is osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that wears down the cushioning cartilage of the joint. However, a generation ago, it was unlikely that a person under the age of 60 would opt for this type of surgery.
Thomas King, an orthopedic surgeon at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, states that since the 1960s, Baby Boomers participate in increased fitness, which has basically worn out their joints. The report notes that in the 1980s, Hugh Chandler, a Boston-based orthopedic surgeon, noted an increased failure rate for younger patients who underwent a total hip replacement. The materials being used at the time were wearing down too quickly, and the joints were becoming loose.
With new technology, however, King claims studies from 1991 to 2011 have shown a 90% success rate, which "gives us confidence that we've solved a lot of problems." He explains that changes, such as eliminating cement and using a well-designed prostheses that fits the bone, have given newer hip replacements a high success rate.
Though a total joint replacement can bring relief to many patients, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) estimates that the country may experience a shortage of orthopaedic surgeons who can perform total hip and knee replacements. The shortfall is expected to be so severe that 50% of those who need total hip replacements and 72% in need of total knee replacements may not have access to them.