Knee-replacement surgery, once limited primarily to seniors, has become one of the most popular elective procedures among middle-age Americans. The trend, however, has alarmed some public-health experts, who worry that patients are choosing the surgery at a too-early age: The artificial joints have been found to wear out in as few as 10 years, subjecting people to another surgery and driving up healthcare costs.
Plus, some observers feel many may be ignoring the surgery’s risks, which include infection, blood clots, and allergic reactions.
“The key issue is selecting patients most likely to benefit from surgery,” Bart Ferket, MD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told the New York Times. “At the moment, this [selection process] is not optimal. Up to 20 percent of patients are not satisfied with the outcome of surgery.”
There are often alternatives to full replacement, including physical therapy. (For more on healthy knees, see “How to Avoid Knee Pain”.)
Consider these statistics before making a decision about knee replacement.
35%: Percentage of male patients under 70 who required “revision” surgery (replacing their original artificial knee) at some point, according to a 2017 study published in the Lancet; 20 percent of female patients needed the surgery.
100%: Increase in the annual rate of knee-replacement surgeries among people age 45 to 64 since 2000. This trend has lowered the average age of patients seeking the procedure to 70.
44%: Percentage of patients that researchers considered “appropriate” recipients of knee replacement, according to a 2014 study from Virginia Commonwealth University. This reflects the view among many consumers that knee replacement is a superior option to physical therapy.
57,000: Average cost of total knee-replacement surgery.