Bionic baby boomers — Orthopedic surgeons struggle to keep up with joint replacement demands

Written by Mackenzie Garrity | April 06, 2018 | Print  |

Remaining active is a lifestyle necessity for older adults and due to continuous advancements with medical devices and implants the opportunities to remain active are high.

While baby boomers continue to choose to undergo hip and knee replacements, orthopedic surgeons are struggling to keep up with the demand, The Boston Globe reports.

Between 2000 and 2014 the number of hip replacements in the U.S. more than doubled – from 160,282 to 371,605 annually, data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project states. The number of knee replacements saw an even larger amount of growth from 274,467 to 680,886.

Getting a hip or knee replacement comes with a steep price. Procedures costs roughly $50,000 for knees and $40,000 for hips, but as many of the patients are Medicare patients – the average age being 66 years according to the American Joint Replacement Registry – the prices vary widely.

Baby boomers also have high expectations with their replacement due to the success rating topping 95 percent. Patients can at times expect the replacement to make them bionic, however, that is often not the case. Implants, although, have an increased life expectancy than previously. Now patients can expect a hip or knee replacement implant to last more than 20 years.

As technology advances and patients opt for replacement surgery, hospital and surgeons are drowning in patients. New England Baptist Hospital in Boston expects to perform 7,000 knee and hip replacements this year, a record. During the mid-1980s, the hospital performed nearly 1,200 replacements annually.

The demand in replacement surgery has also caused orthopedic surgeons salaries to surge. The average salary for a joint replacement specialist hit $575,000 last year, according to Merritt Hawkins & Associates.

Surgeons aren't the only ones seeing the demand first hand. Device companies are also motivated by the increase in replacement surgeries. ConforMIS sells between 17,000 and 20,000 knee implants annually. The company also recently received FDA approval for its hip implant.

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