Joint Replacement Is Often The Answer For Sidelined “Baby Boomer” Athletes

For Immediate Release

Joint Replacement Is Often The Answer For Sidelined “Baby Boomer” Athletes:
Active, fit Boomers reap benefits of new technologies and techniques, says leading orthopedist

NY, NY and Greenwich, CT, January 2006 – The recommendation of joint replacement surgery usually provokes questions: Will it be painful? Will my recovery be lengthy? Will I need long-term physical therapy? Yet, for younger, active adults, the news that they need hip or knee replacement surgery is met with another critical question: Will I be able to continue pursuing my athletic interests? Fortunately, thanks to new technologies and techniques in joint replacement – from shatter-resistant, long-wearing ceramic hips to partial knee replacement procedures – the answer is often met with a resounding “Yes.”

According to Kevin Plancher, M.D., a leading NY-area orthopaedist, sports medicine expert and official orthopaedic surgeon of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams, many of the advances in joint replacement surgery are targeted specifically to Baby Boomers between the ages of 40 and 60. “There are a number of key reasons why the orthopedic research community has been working hard to develop both the components and the new surgical techniques necessary to perform joint replacement on young, active adults,” Dr. Plancher notes.

Demographics of Joint Replacement Surgery are Changing
“As we know, Baby Boomers are far more active than previous generations at their age,” Dr. Plancher explains. Most fitness-related injuries – and even osteoarthritis of the joints – can be treated and controlled with rest, medications and other non-invasive interventions. However, the degeneration of the joints of the knee and hip – the most taxed joints in the body – to the point of failure is not uncommon, Dr. Plancher explains. “Since the more we use our joints, the more quickly they wear out, active ‘Boomers’ are more likely to need joint replacements sooner rather than later,” he adds.

In fact, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, (NIAMS), about 20% of the 250,000 knee replacement surgeries performed each year are on patients under age 65. For hip replacement, it’s nearly one in ten of the 180,000 procedures performed annually. Yet the traditional technologies and techniques for joint replacement surgery were not as conducive to regaining an active lifestyle.

Advances Mean New Hips and Knees Make More Sens
“While the advances in joint replacement surgery have not altogether eliminated the need for follow-up surgery in younger patients,” Dr. Plancher advises, “they have significantly improved the ‘quality-of-life’ indicators for younger, active adults who need them.” For example, new materials being used to construct replacement parts can last about 30% longer – up to 15 years – before needing to be reconstructed. More importantly, the surgical techniques themselves have advanced significantly, and many procedures now offer patients a shorter hospital stay, a faster recovery and easier rehabilitation, and a more complete return to their previous levels of activity. “Thanks to these advances in surgical techniques, materials and components, joint replacement surgery makes more sense than ever for these younger, active seniors,” Dr. Plancher says. Among the newest developments:

  • An alternative to Total Knee Replacement for patients with degeneration in only one compartment of the knee called Unicondylar Knee Arthroplasty involves only partial replacement of the joint. “With the right indication, this is ideal for active patients, because it involves a shorter hospital stay, a faster recovery and the benefits of bloodless surgery,” Dr. Plancher explains.
  • New components for total knee replacement are made of a more durable material and have been shown in simulator testing to reduce the wear and tear on the joint by up to 85% compared with the traditional chrome parts. “Reduction in wear on the joint can potentially extend the life of the implant,” Dr. Plancher notes, “leading many surgeons to choose these new materials for their younger, more active patients.” BioMet reports, for example, that its Titanium-based ACS Total Knee System survives for 15 years in 98% of patients, and its Oxford partial knee replacement system showed a 10-year survival rate of 98% in a followup study.
  • Scientists can now make 3D computerized models of each patient’s unique bone and muscle structure before surgeons start the joint replacement procedure. Using technology that is similar to a Global Positioning System in an automobile, the Knee Navigation System by Stryker Orthopaedics maps out the unique bony and soft tissue landscape of each patient’s individual knee joint. “This enables a near-perfect placement of the prosthesis,” Dr. Plancher says, “which can result in a faster, easier recovery and a longer lifespan of the replacement.”
  • New ceramic hip components are reported to be shatter-resistant, unlike their previous counterparts, smoother than traditional chrome implants, and believed to be able to 20 years before needing revision. “This would be critical for ‘Baby Boomer’ patients,” Dr. Plancher explains, “because the more active you are, the more quickly your implant – or your natural joint – will wear out.”
  • A new procedure called Mini-Incision Total Hip Replacement allows surgeons to use X-ray guidance, direct visualization and special surgical instruments to perform a far less invasive procedure, while still implanting the prostheses used in traditional surgery. “Mini-incision hip replacement involves only a two-inch incision, and the muscles can be separated instead of cut,” Dr. Plancher notes. “This results in much less down-time for the patient, and the long-range outcomes are often superior because of the precision of the X-ray guidance equipment,” he adds.

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