This is why knee, hip and shoulder replacements are becoming more common for people as young as 40 for whom active lifestyles are being limited by early onset of arthritis symptoms.
“The surgical techniques have improved, and longevity of the implants is now 20 to 25 years. As a result, we’re seeing younger people, in the 40 to 50 age range, turning to joint replacement when their quality of life is compromised. The materials in today’s implants have improved too. Ball and socket combinations of metal-against-polyethylene plastic are doing better than laboratory predictions,” said Francis Ennis, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Computer assisted techniques at Greenwich Hospital allow the surgeon to make very precise cuts in the bone, and this helps to accurately align the replacement components anatomically. “This type of minimally invasive procedure is less disruptive to soft tissues, muscle and tendons around the joint. Most people can walk without a cane in less than two weeks after muscle-sparing knee replacement,” said Kavanagh.
One of the biggest advances in joint replacement over the past year or two is the multimodal approach to pain management that includes a pre-operative “nerve block” or numbing agent to relieve nerve pain. “This tends to reduce the need for narcotic pain medication after surgery, and also diminishes nausea and other side effects caused by some pain medications,” explained Ennis.
Arthritis is considered the most common cause of disability in the United States, affecting about 1 in every 5 adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.