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Orthopaedic Surgeon Shortage Predicted Due to Soaring Joint Replacement Procedures
Date:2/25/2009

33), also known as arthroplasty, is considered by many to be one of the most successful medical innovations of the 20th century. Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which the patient's natural joint is replaced with an artificial one.

  • More than 700,000 primary total hip and knee replacements are performed each year in the United States, and demand for the surgery is expected to double in the next 10 years.

A second study co-authored by Steven M. Kurtz, Ph.D., found that a major reason for the growth in patient demand for joint replacement is the increase in younger patients.

  • Projections show that by 2011, more than 50 percent of patients requiring hip replacements will be under the age of 65; the knee-replacement patient population will reach that threshold by 2016.
  • For primary total knee replacement, the fastest growing group of patients is in the 45-54 age category; the number of procedures performed in this age group is projected to grow from 59,077 in 2006 to 994,104 (an increase of 17 times) by 2030.

"Joint replacement is generally thought of as a procedure for older people, over 65," says Dr. Kurtz, corporate vice president and office director at Exponent, Inc., in Philadelphia. "Our projections show that younger people make up a big piece of the pie, and that is only going to increase if historical trends continue."

Both researchers believe that the key to stemming this supply-side crisis is for policymakers to reconsider the rates at which total joint replacements are reimbursed. The reimbursement rates have consistently gone down over the years, even as the costs of providing health care have gone up.

However, Dr. Kurtz notes that the possibility of new technologies may offer a glimmer of hope. "It's hard to predict what changes will come
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SOURCE American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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