Joint Replacement - How Young Is Too Young?

We're seeing more and more younger patients needing joint replacement especially, in the knee and hip.

In the past, it was those in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s who got new parts. Now it is not uncommon for those in their 50s, or even 40s, to need an artificial joint.

There really is not, per se, an age limit on joint replacement. Children with certain conditions, like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, have joint replacements as teenagers and even before that in some instances.

Having said that, the goal of any orthopedic surgeons should be to keep you on your own joint, not an artificial one, as long as possible, preferably past the age of 55. That should be your goal, is well.

Why wait? Because artificial joints don't last a lifetime. Surgeons usually will tell you that most will last 10-20 years if put in properly, and cared for in the right manner. Certainly some can last a lifetime.

But the younger and healthier (and more active) the patient who has a joint replacement, the more likely they are to wear out more rapidly - especially if they abuse it with higher impact activities. Baby boomers listen up.

If you were to break a precious antique or heirloom, and magically could have another, you would think that you would take good care of it - but this is not always the case, especially with younger individuals whose knees and hips are given a second chance with modern technology and joint replacement surgery. They think that because the clock has been turned back, they can relive their glory days.

Many of my younger patients (who want a joint replacement at a relatively young age) ask the logical question - So what if my knee (or hip) replacement wears out? Can't I just swap it for a new one?

In my next blog entry I'll talk about the pros and cons of trading in your old joint replacement for a new one.