Last updated: June 01. 2013 1:30PM - 162 Views
by Matilda Charles

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For a growing number of us, it will become necessary at some point to have a knee replacement. A recently completed 20-year study, funded in part by the National Institute on Aging, shows the number of knee surgeries has steadily risen. More of us, it seems, are now walking pain-free.

But the news isn’t all good, however. The study included 3.3 million participants who had a primary knee replacement and 300,000 who had a revision process, which is replacement of a previous implanted joint. Along the way, hospital stays have gotten shorter for recovery from the knee surgeries. This has caused higher complication rates as well as higher readmission rates, as we go back in the hospital when things go wrong.

Between 1991 and 2010, the number of total knee arthroplasty (TKA) procedures rose a whopping 162 percent. The reason? There are more people likely to be considered as candidates for the surgery, more seniors in the population and more conditions that lead to osteoarthritis — such as obesity.

Again the flipside:

Hospital stays were cut from eight to four days for primary surgery, and from nine to five days for revision surgeries. This was no doubt due to insurers who want patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible to cut costs.

Hospital readmissions jumped from 4 percent to 5 percent for primary procedures, and from 6 percent to 9 percent for revisions.

Revisions caused more than double the readmission rates for wound infection, and a 100 percent increase for hemorrhage and heart attack.

There’s one thing to be said for following a good diet: If we keep our weight down and stay out of the obese category, we might be able to avoid needing knee surgery.

Matilda Charles regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to columnreply2@gmail.com.

(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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