Hip and Knee Replacements: Will Growing Demand Increase Costs?

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Individuals are living longer than ever before, and many remain active well into retirement. Even healthy active lifestyles can be hard on the hips and knees, resulting in painful decreases in cartilage and bone.

In many situations, knee or hip replacement may be necessary. As a result, the hip replacement market is expected to increase significantly over the next eight years. In fact, the industry has already doubled in the past decade-with roughly 690, 000 surgeries performed every year.

Safety, Costs, and Concerns

Technology is developing quickly in the area of knee and total hip replacement, and there is increased concern about patient safety. Doctors are attempting to find the best solution for individual patients regarding both use and the surgery itself. New strategies for minimally invasive surgery are developing, and 3D printing technology is expected to contribute to the field.

Cost concerns are prevalent, and the lack of affordability of hip and knee surgeries sometimes prevents patients who need replacement from actually undergoing surgery. Those in the industry are definitely aware of issues with costs, and taking measures to decrease expenses is important.

Decreasing Costs with Technology

The metal and plastic components involved in knee and hip replacement surgery are often designed better than they were several years ago. The replacements often last longer, are more durable and end up causing less pain. They cut down on revision surgeries and the need for future replacements significantly.

Better replacements also mean increased mobility for patients. For example, replacement knees now act more like the natural knee, instead of a hinge design that was developed in the 1970s.

Replacements at a Younger Age

More durable replacement joints also mean that surgery is now an option for younger people. When replacements only lasted ten years, doctors would recommend that patients wait until they were in their mid-sixties or seventies to have surgery so that they had a decreased chance of having to substitute the joint again. Those concerns are far less likely today.

While this development may not necessarily decrease costs, it can certainly increase the overall quality of life and improve a patient’s ability to work longer.

Reduced Recovery Time

Doctors have also been developing ways to cut down on recovering time, particularly by using minimally invasive surgery techniques. In earlier years, patients would have to recover in the hospital for a week or two. Today, most recovery times are often less than two days.

Faster recovery means less time in the hospital and less time away from family or jobs. This allows patients to not only cut down on hospital bills but also decrease the time that they are not earning money at work in many situations.

Increased Mobility

Allowing patients to remain mobile by getting joint replacement surgery can also enable them to live on their own longer. This type of benefit not only significantly increases the quality of life, but it also cuts down on costs associated with long-term care.

Other Potential Developments

Doctors and researchers think that the industry can still be improved drastically despite the already significant progress. For example, some federal health care officials are considering allowing stand-alone outpatient clinics to do some hip and knee surgeries. Whether this option would be available would depend a great deal on the patient, as there would be little recovery time actually in the clinic.

“Bundled payment” plans may also be on the horizon. That would mean that surgeons and hospitals would be required to accept a flat fee for certain surgeries, and if there are complications, then the payment would be reduced. This type of payment plan would encourage everyone to work together so that the patient gets the best result possible.

Concerns with Recalls

From 2002 to 2013, there have been 578 hip implant recalls. The majority of the recalls deal with a poor design from metal-on-metal hip implants. While the goal of these implants was to increase durability, they have actually caused problems that related to metal toxicity in the blood and instability.

A failure to have replacements that work will increase costs if replacements are necessary. Of course, having to undergo revision surgery is also not enjoyable from a physical or mental standpoint as well.

Continued Work on Reliability and Decreased Costs

Doctors and researchers will have to work together to develop products and techniques that will work well for the increasing demand expected in upcoming years. Using proper equipment and procedures will allow those who need the surgery to have the increased quality of life that they deserve, without breaking the bank.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.