Knee Replacements Up in Baby Boomers

Knee replacement surgeries are on the rise in the United States, and the average patient’s age is falling. According to BBC News, new data shows that more and more baby boomers in their 50s are having their knees replaced due to the strain caused by obesity.

The trend has also been observed in the United Kingdom and Finland, says the report in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Experts say the growing numbers and falling age are disturbing as many surgeons are unaware of the product’s shelf life. Previous tests of knee replacements have only been conducted in patients in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

“It is worrying because we do not know the longevity of the replacements in younger patients,” Jarkko Leskinen, an orthopedic surgeon, told the BBC.

According to the news agency, the best estimates for knee replacements suggest the new joints last about 15 years. In patients who are younger and often more physically active, this many not be a long enough shelf life.

“Patients with osteoarthritis knees now demand more in terms of what they can do, and in order to achieve that—to keep on playing sport, for example—they not unreasonably demand earlier surgical intervention,” said Alan Silman of Arthritis Research UK. “However, in patients who continue to expose their new joints to demanding activities, we need to investigate if the new joint is more likely to fail early.”

And the numbers are rising. According to U.K. data, the number of knee replacement operations now outnumbers the number of hip replacements performed in the country. In 2010, an increase of 5.7 percent over the previous year was observed, with nearly 90,000 operations performed.

Arthritis Research UK is working to ensure that artificial knees carry a new life span of 30 years or more, the BBC said.

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