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Scientists see spike in knee replacements

September 27, 2012

The growing aging population has spurred a number of changes, and one of the most recent trends seems to reflect their desire to stay active. Researchers say the number of knee replacements performed between 1991 and 2010 increased considerably, and they expect the figure to continue to grow over the next 20 years.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that there was a 161.5 percent increase in the number of knee replacement surgeries on Medicare beneficiaries performed between the two periods. Aside from the fact there are more older adults than before, experts say much of the spike has to do with their lifestyle expectations as they age

"People are living longer and want to be active," lead author Peter Cram told USA Today. "They feel great after this surgery. They can hike in the mountains and ski. They can be active with their grandchildren."

The findings come soon after other studies have shown patients are getting knee replacements younger than in previous years. Rather than waiting for the effects of osteoarthritis to limit their mobility, some baby boomers have been going under the knife younger than before. In fact, demand for replacements in adults 45 to 64 tripled from 1999 to 2009.

Knee replacements certainly come with a number of benefits for seniors who have had problems enjoying healthy aging thanks to arthritis or other painful conditions. However, like any serious surgery it is not without its risks. Along with a lengthy recovery period, some studies have shown that knee replacement patients are at a much higher risk for heart attacks in the two weeks following the procedure than the average person their age.