Twenty years ago knee replacement surgery was a relatively new procedure in the United States. According to the Journal of American Medical Association it is now estimated that about 600,000 people have their knee replaced and about 30 to 60 thousand more undergo revision on their implant every year. A new study examined the trends in these common procedures among Medicare recipients over the last 20 years.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association researchers say while those procedures are now safe and effective they are also expensive, An average procedure costs around 15,000 dollars.
Doctor Peter Cram from University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine says "If you're 65 today you're probably more likely to get a knee replacement than you were twenty years ago, we're doing many more of the procedures on the same fixed population."
The number of these joint replacement operations is increasing each year, especially within the Medicare population. Knee replacement patient Tom Aiken says he has no problem walking today but that wasn't the case eight years ago. "It felt like somebody was drilling me through the knee cap all the time" Says Aiken.
From what used to be up to an eight day hospital length of stay has now been compressed down to a three to four day length of stay. Complication rates remained stable, however, there was an increase in re-admission rates and among knee revision patients infection rates also increased. "We're not exactly sure what to make of this but this is something that I think that people are going to be watching very carefully" says University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Superintendent.
The ability of patients to be functional again makes this surgery a success, Aiken says "I'm at a hundred percent now for a man at 76. I have a normal life."