Lloyd Emanuel, a professional tennis player 62, of Rye, New York, competed for 50 years, and expected to continue doing so. However, six years ago he began to feel pain in his right knee.
Diagnosis: osteoarthritis, a deterioration of joint cartilage. An orthopedic surgeon repaired the damaged cartilage and, despite warnings from the doctor that would lessen the activity, Emanuel continued to play tennis as he would. Three years later, he was back on the surgery room to receive a total knee replacement.
Previously, knee replacement surgeries were reserved for adult patients who were severely affected by osteoarthritis.
“Currently, patients 40 and 50 years are beginning to suffer from osteoarthritis early, which affects their daily lives,” said J. David Blaha, MD, orthopedic surgeon at the University of Michigan Health System (University Health Michigan).
In fact, the number of boomersque opt for a knee replacement surgery early on is increasing at an incredible speed.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the total number of knee replacements, both partial and total, which are performed per year rose 30% between 2004 and 2008.
In the same period, there was a dramatic increase of 61% of these surgeries in men and women between 45 and 64 years, and is expected that this increase will continue or even increase. Blaha says that experts estimate that in the next 10 years knee surgery could increase as much as 3.2 million annually.
What worries orthopedic surgeons is that, because these joint replacements have been made usually in older patients, there is little information showing what the outcome of these implants in younger people.
“We currently use new and better materials and techniques, and we believe there is an improvement in longevity, but we do not know yet. New plastics have been in use for only three years, “says Rafael J. Sierra, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic.
The American Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons announced the creation of Joint Replacement Registry to monitor the results of the replacements.
Younger patients who have received knee replacement may have to undergo a new surgery in just five to ten years, which is a concern.
Researchers at the Center for Hip and Knee Surgery at the St. Francis Hospital, Mooresville, Ind., Reported that patients with total knee replacement showed “remarkable” improvement after 20 years of knee surgery.
“There is no free lunch,” says Baumgaertner. “When successful, this surgery is a striking change in your life, but when it goes wrong, it can be a catastrophe.” Any surgery of the lower limbs, he adds, “can lead to blood clots and infections occur in 2% of cases.”