Average age of hip replacements drops as parts, procedures improve

Data pix.

Better parts means younger joint replacement procedures, opening the door for more patients to get pain-free with new joints that last longer.

Matt Gray was told he had hip dysplasia, an abnormality he was likely born with, but identified relatively recently. His joint never formed properly, and it was wearing out.

“I went through physical therapy, injections. I tried everything under the sun to make this go away without surgery,” Gray said.

While he worked out regularly, Gray said due to the pain it was "not anywhere near the level I want to.” So at 40 years old he decided to undergo a hip replacement.

Surgeon Dr. Richard Berger, Midwest Orthopaedics, said they're seeing patients come in earlier for hip replacements needed as a result of injuries or just regular wear and tear.

“Some people’s cartilage wears out faster," Gray said. "We’ve always been thinking of this as grandma’s disease. It’s wrong. The average patient I operate on is 51 at this point.”

Berger says the procedure and the parts have changed, making joint replacement a more attractive option for younger patients.

“These are mechanical parts, and parts will wear out with time, but they are much better now. They last a long time," Berger said. "We put them in without cutting muscles, ligaments and tendons. The joint just acts more normally, and when it acts more normally the pieces don’t wear as quickly.”

The new joint should last 20 to 25 years. When the parts do fail, Berger says he often doesn’t need to perform a more invasive revision surgery.

“Usually the pieces attached to the patient stay attached for the lifetime of the patient. What wears out is the little bearing surface," Berger said.

Berger said that bearing surface can be much more easily replaced with a less-invasive procedure.

Three months after his surgery, Matt said he's back to weight training, though it is scaled down.

“There’s impact loading, doing things like running, that wears it out a little faster, but what Matt is doing, power lifting, maintaining a good core, that will actually protect the pieces with time,” Berger said.

Dr. Berger says it’s rare, but the replacement parts can loosen over time. In that case, a patient would need a complete revision, which is a more invasive procedure.

“It definitely gives me peace of mind knowing that even if I’m really hard on the replacement and I wear it out, that it’s a somewhat simple procedure to get a new insert in and be back doing whatever I’m doing,” Gray said.

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