As the Baby Boomer generation ages, joint replacements are on the rise. The Boomer generation strives to maintain an active lifestyle, which is taking a toll on their joints. Doctors recommend low-impact exercise such as cycling, using an elliptical, or doing aerobic activities to reduce wear and tear on aging joints. Weight is also an obvious factor to consider.
“Human joints are only meant to bear so much weight,” observed Russell Flint, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Jasper, Ga. “When overloaded with excess weight, a joint is destined to wear out. If a person is even one pound overweight, that one pound is equal to five pounds of force on the joints.”
When alternatives to joint replacement such as physical therapy, injections, and medications don’t do the trick, surgery is the last resort. Desperate baby boomers aren’t letting achy joints slow them down and are increasingly electing to have knee or hip replacements to stay active and improve their quality of life in the years to come. An article published by UCI Health in California points to an estimate that by 2030, the number of total knee replacements performed in the U.S. will increase by more than 600 percent compared to 2005. Total hip replacements are expected to increase by almost 200 percent over the same time period.
According to a report by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Joint Replacement Registry (AJRR), in 2017 the average age for a patient undergoing a primary total hip replacement was 65; for a primary knee replacement, it was 66. AJRR surgeons performed an average of 26 primary hip arthroplasties per year and 46 primary total knee arthroplasties per year. The chart below represents 2017 knee replacements by region according to data collected from Definitive Healthcare.
It is becoming more and more common for joint replacement procedures to take place in an ambulatory surgery center rather than in a hospital when a patient doesn’t have any comorbidities. It is estimated that 51% of primary hip and knee joint replacements will be performed in an outpatient setting by 2026. Costs savings and improving patient satisfaction are some of the main drivers for the transition.
According to a study by the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, the movement of just half of eligible surgical procedures from hospital outpatient departments to ambulatory surgery centers would save Medicare $2.5 billion annually. Medicaid and other insurers would also benefit from lower costs. As a result, investment by private equity firms in orthopedic practices is anticipated to grow significantly.