Baby Boomers Driving Joint Replacements

Baby Boomers are leading the pack when it comes to joint replacements.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery, as cited by a recent Wall Street Journal article, the fastest growing group of joint replacement/corrective surgery patients are 46 to 64.

That’s right in the Baby Boomer wheelhouse.


Two reasons were cited: An active lifestyle among Boomers that wears joints out more quickly, and a desire to be pain free and remain active late into life. offered statistics that show:

  • The number of total knee replacements performed in the U.S. will leap by 673 percent — reaching 3.48 million — by the year 2030;
  • Hip replacements will increase by 174 percent to 572,000 by 2030, according to the new findings, which are based on historical procedure rates from 1990 to 2003 and population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“There is a huge swell of elderly patients from the baby boom who will come through the system and be candidates for artificial joints,” researcher Steven M. Kurtz, PhD, office director and principal engineer at Exponent Failure Analysis Associates in Philadelphia, said in a WebMD post.

But the drive for replacement knees and hips needs to be counterbalanced by a couple of realities: Rehabilitation and a question of just how long the replacements will last.

On the subject of rehab, Baby Boomers and others who get new joints need to be prepared for a tough road back from surgery.

“There is, to be honest, some irrational exuberance out there,” Daniel Berry, chief of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and president of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, told the Journal. “People may be overly optimistic about what joint replacement can do for them.”

The Journal profiled several replacement surgery patients. Here’s what some of the Baby Boomer patients offered in terms of advice about the rehab:

“The surgery is not that difficult,” said a 62-year-old recipient of a new hip. “Just set aside eight to 10 weeks and really let it heal. Do the physical therapy as prescribed. It really helps.”  So don’t stress out.

Said a 63 year old with new hips and new knees: “You need to prepare yourself mentally and physically. Talk to the physical therapist in advance and learn what you’re going to go through.”

A bigger question has to do with how long these expensive procedures will last.

A knee replacement and a new hip are good for 15 to 20 years, maybe longer, depending on the patient.

In fact, the orthopedists said to the Journal, patients are the biggest factor.

“If your goal is a 30-year knee, you need to avoid high-impact sports,” John Wright, an orthopedic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in the Journal story. offers separate sections of advice for hip replacements, knee replacements and shoulder replacements.

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