Are You ‘Too Young’ for Hip Replacement Surgery?

Improved implants and techniques allow for safer use in younger patients

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage, or cushion, that surrounds and protects the ends of the bones in the joint wears out.

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When non-operative interventions, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, no longer work, many elect for total hip replacement surgery.

These types of surgeries used to be reserved for those over 65, but as orthopaedic surgeon Peter Surace, MD explains, an increasing number of younger patients are having hip replacements due to advanced osteoarthritis in the hip joints.

Hip replacements in younger patients

When hip pain begins to interfere with activities and hobbies you enjoy, 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,” says Dr. Surace. He says treatment such as oral or topical anti-inflammatories, a specific exercise program, some activity modification or formal physical therapy can get many patients back to their active lifestyle. But when these options fail to provide relief, surgery may be an option.

Data released from the National Hospital Discharge Survey confirm 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% 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,” says Dr. Surace.

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Technological advances make hip replacements safer

Another reason for the increase in hip replacements in younger patients is the improvement in technology seen over the past 10 years to 15 years.

Newer materials mean the implants used in hip replacements last longer than ever. Currently, based on data available, it is estimated that there’s a 90% chance implants being used today are still functioning well at 20 years, with many lasting longer than that. And once these implants have reached their limit, the revision now is usually a simple modular exchange instead of a larger revision of all components. 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,” says Dr. Surace. He says it’s not uncommon to see patients able to walk without assistive devices in as little as two 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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