Do You Really Need a New Knee?

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Knee-replacement surgery, once limited primarily to seniors, became one of the most popular elective procedures among middle-age Americans. The trend, however, has alarmed some public-health experts, who worry that people are choosing the surgery at a too-early age: The substitute 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, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told the brand new York Times. “At the moment, this [selection process] isn't optimal. Up to 20 percent of people are not satisfied with the outcome of surgery.”

There in many cases are alternatives to full replacement, including physical therapy. (For more on healthy knees, see “How to prevent Knee Pain”.)

Consider these statistics prior to making a decision about knee replacement.

35%: Number of male patients under 70 who required “revision” surgery (replacing their original artificial knee) sooner or later, according to a 2021 study published within 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 2021 study from Virginia Commonwealth University. This reflects the vista among many consumers that knee replacement is really a superior option to physical therapy.

57,000: Average cost of total knee-replacement surgery.

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