However, not everyone with arthritis is a good candidate for total or partial knee replacement.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, about 75 percent of people with osteoarthritis in their knees won’t even need surgery; and if you’re one of those, consider yourself lucky.
Knee replacement surgery is no picnic. It is painful and time consuming, especially when physical therapy is factored in. However, many patients report a dramatic increase in their quality of life after fully recovering from the procedure.
But, there is a downside.
Discovery Health author Tom Scheve wrote, “Unlike a mechanical heart stent that lasts longer than the patient, mechanical knees wear down just like real knees. So, if you get a knee replacement in your early 50s, you’re probably going to need another one sometime in your mid to late 60s. The problem is that the second one is often less successful than the first one because the bones have already been drilled into, leaving less of a “bracket” for the replacement joint the second time around.”
BBC News recently reported that more and more patients in their 50s are undergoing knee replacement surgery, and experts are now wondering about what this trend will mean for the future.
Statistics were analyzed from the United Kingdom, the United States and Finland, which all showed a similar increase in knee replacement requests by younger patients.
BBC News health reporter Michelle Roberts wrote, “A report in Arthritis & Rheumatism says work is urgently needed to check that replacements in this age group is wise given the product's unknown shelf life. The durability of the replacement knee joints has only been assessed in patients in their 60s, 70s and 80s, not in their 50s.”
Orthopedic experts estimate that artificial knees last about 15 years, but data has only been collected from older, slower moving patients.
With this new group of younger, more active people having knee replacement surgery, some orthopedic surgeons think the joint replacements will wear down even faster.
BBC News reports that Arthritis Research UK is currently conducting a study on the success of knee replacements in younger patients. The non-profit organization hopes to help develop an artificial knee that lasts about 30 years, which would make a major difference in the well being of younger knee replacement patients.
But why do younger and younger people need joint replacement surgery in the first place?
Some experts in the UK blame it on obesity.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, told BBC News, “More knee replacements are being performed because the population is getting older and more obese - two of the main causes of knee osteoarthritis - but also because they are increasingly being carried out on younger people, under the age of 50.
Dr. Jarkko Leskinen, an orthopedic surgeon at the Helsinki University Central Hospital in Finland, told BBC News he and his team experienced similar results. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Leskinen found a dramatic increase in younger knee replacement patients; with some even in their 30s.
He told BBC News, “It is worrying because we do not know the longevity of the replacements in younger patients. We may face problems in the near future because of this.”
Professor Silman also added, “We may well be faced with doing a lot more replacement revisions when these patients reach their 70s.”
And although joint replacement techniques and tools will certainly improve with time, you might not want to rely on medical technology to save your joints.
Many experts agree that nothing can replace your original joints, so it’s essential to take good care of them. Taking steps to prevent osteoarthritis can decrease your risk for injury, and it is actually quite simple.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is the first step towards caring for your joints. Knees and hips experience force three to six times greater than a person’s body weight, so losing extra pounds will help to relieve joint stress.
Regular physical activity is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it can also strengthen your joints; just make sure you protect them.
Practice good posture, and proper form while exercising, and don’t push yourself past your physical limits (you could injure yourself!). It is also important to be mindful of repetitive stress on the joints, and avoiding these types of activities as much as possible.
Finally, the most obvious way to prevent osteoarthritis is to listen to your body.
Think of aches and pains as a sign from the body that you’re pushing too much. When pain does occur, make sure to take time off to rest your joints. Overdoing it will only cause more pain and problems in the long term, so it’s wise to take it easy if you’re suffering even the tiniest bit.
Although it isn’t 100 percent possible to prevent osteoarthritis, taking these healthy steps can decrease your chances of needing orthopedic surgery in the future, and increase your quality of life in the present.
Image Courtesy of Science Photo Library
BBC News Health. “Rise in number of ‘younger’ knee replacements”. Web. Jan. 17, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16575747
Discovery Health. How Stuff Works. “Who is a Good Candidate for Total Knee Replacement?” Web. Jan. 18, 2012. http://health.howstuffworks.com/medicine/surgeries-procedures/knee-replacement3.htm
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. OrthInfo. “Total Knee Replacement”. Web. Jan. 18, 2012. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00389
About.com Guide. “6 Tips for Osteoarthritis Prevention.” Web. Nov. 20, 2010. http://osteoarthritis.about.com/od/jointprotection/a/OA_prevention.htm
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.