Why You’re Never ‘Too Young’ for Hip Replacement Surgery

Better implants, techniques mean you don't have to wait

Contributor: Robert Molloy, MD

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Janet is a busy 48-year-old mother of three children who leads a very active lifestyle. In addition to caring for her family, one of her other passions is playing tennis. When hip pain began interfering with her daily activities and prevented her from pursuing her hobbies, she looked for help.

After listening to her story and examining her x-rays, it was apparent that advanced osteoarthritis of her hip was the underlying problem. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage, or cushion, that surrounds and protects the ends of the bones in the joint wears out.

When non-operative interventions, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, no longer controlled her pain, she underwent successful total hip replacement surgery. After a few months, she was back on the tennis courts pursuing her hobbies and normal activities.

Janet’s story is not unique. An increasing number of younger patients are having hip replacements due to advanced osteoarthritis in the hip joints.

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Trend to younger patients

When hip pain begins to interfere with activities and hobbies, seeking out a professional opinion with an orthopedic surgeon can help determine the available options.

Often, the pain can be managed with non-operative interventions, especially in the earlier stages of arthritis. Treatment such as oral or topical anti-inflammatories, a specific exercise program, some activity modification or formal physical therapy can get patients back to their active lifestyle. When these options fail to provide relief, surgery may be offered.

Data recently released from the National Hospital Discharge Survey co nfirm a trend that has long been predicted. According to the research, the total number of hip replacements performed increased from 138,000 in 2000 to more than 310,000 in 2010. In the youngest age group, ages 45 to 54, there was a 200 percent increase.

There are a number of reasons for the increase, especially among the younger patients. First and foremost, a total hip replacement is a very successful procedure. Patients debilitated by hip pain see friends and neighbors return to an active lifestyle shortly after having hip replacement surgery. Most patients can return to most activities, including sports, successfully after a hip replacement.

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Technological advances

Another reason for the increase is the technology improvements seen over the past 10 years to 15 years. Newer materials mean the implants used in hip replacements are lasting longer than ever. Currently, based on data available, it is estimated that there is a 90 percent chance implants being used today are still functioning well at 20 years. As a result, many patients who were once told they were “too young” for hip replacement are now able to undergo surgery and return to their active lifestyle.

As a result of advanced therapy protocols, the hospital stay and time to recover has greatly decreased. Our average hospital stay is about 1.5 days for all patients, and less than that in the younger population. It’s not uncommon to see patients able to walk without assistive devices in as little as two weeks to three weeks, and patients often can return to work in the same time frame, depending on their job requirements and motivation.

If hip pain is inhibiting your lifestyle, talk to your doctor. Many nonsurgical and surgical options are available to help manage your pain and get you back in the game.

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