A few years ago, about 300,000 knee replacements were performed a year. The number is now a half-million and rising. What’s fueling the big boom? A common condition with baby boomers.
“I wouldn’t trade this mobility for the world,” says Ramona West, a knee replacement patient.
West is moving through life on two artificial knees. She is one of a growing number of baby boomers opting for replacement surgery earlier in life.
“Why make somebody wait until they’re 65 when they can have an extra 10 or 15 years of being able to walk?” says West.
In 10 years, there could be as many as 3.2 million annual knee replacement surgeries.
“Replacing of a knee is really resurfacing the knee. We don’t cut out the knee joint, we really resurface a few millimeters or take off a very few millimeters of the damaged cartilage and bone and cap the end,” says Dr. Ed Humbert, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
The big boom in business lies within this generation’s demand to keep an active lifestyle, despite their failing joints. The number one thing standing in their way is arthritis.
“Arthritis is usually a chronic condition that is treated as conservative as possible but over time but when get to the point where the simple injections or the anti-inflammatories don’t help, that’s when you consider doing a surgical intervention,” says Dr. Humbert.
“The arthritis kicked in when I was 40, and by the time I was in my early fifties, I had nothing, no cartilage left. It was bone on bone and I was like walking like this,” says West.
Degenerative or osteoarthritis is also on the rise, due in part to our increased weight, both serving to stress out joints.
“Twenty-25 years ago, very few people would attempt to do younger joint replacements. Nowadays people are demanding a little bit higher levels of care,” says Dr. Humbert.So these artificial joints are taking some of the pain out of growing old.