The New York Times recently published an extremely valuable article about hip and knee implants. According to statistics, about 806,000 such procedures were performed in the US in 2007. This is twice as many as were performed a decade earlier. Though routine, replacements are not without risk or potential for a future replacement.
Dr. Henrik Malchau, an orthopedic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told the NY Times that implants must sometimes be replaced. According to a 2007 study, 7 percent of hip implants in Medicare patients had to be repeated within seven and a half years.
Dr. Malchau states that while this may seem insignificant, the study suggests that thousands of hip patients eventually require a second operation. That translates into additional recoveries and increased medical expenses. The failure rate should be lower.
Dr. Malchau and Dr. Daniel Berry, chief of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. had some very good suggestions to improve the success rate for seniors undergoing hip and knee replacements.
Photo credit: Mayo Clinic.
EXPERIENCE: Choose â€” or request a referral to â€” an experienced surgeon at a busy hospital.
VOLUME MATTERS: One study quoted by the Times found that patients achieved better success when having the procedure done by doctors who performed more than 50 of them a year when compared to surgeons who did 12 procedures or fewer.
ADJUST EXPECTATIONS: Doctor Berry addressed the issue that joint replacements are not for everyone. There are always complications and risks to be considered. In other words, a benefit/risk analysis should be done.
NARROW YOUR OPTIONS: There are many manufacturers of joints. The patient needs to work with the surgeon to choose one that is appropriate and best for him or her. "There is no one best joint," Dr. Berry said. "A successful replacement depends on selecting the right implant for the patient."
GATHER INFORMATION: Get more than one opinion. Then do some research on your own to find out what is know about which joint has a better performance history.
Read the entire article: Getting a New Knee or Hip? Do It Right the First Time, by Lesley Alderman, N.Y. Times July 2, 2010.