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Wellness Matters: What Happens When Younger Patients Need Joint Replacement?

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The following weekly column is written and sponsored by Virginia Hospital Center, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and one of America’s 100 Top Hospitals for the third year in a row.

If you think joint replacement is only for the very old, think again. More and more people in their 40s and 50s are taking the plunge, unwilling to live with debilitating pain or give up the activities they love. The percentage of younger patients having hip or knee replacements has nearly doubled in the last decade.

Years ago, replacement surgery was reserved for elderly patients due to a high complication rate and lack of implant durability. But now, modern techniques allow orthopedic surgeons to evaluate each patient individually and base surgical decisions on pain and disability, not necessarily chronological age.

Likewise, the notion that prosthetic implants will wear out quickly is a myth. Thanks to improvements in materials and design, the vast majority of hip and knee implants will last 20 years or more. Current materials might prove to last even longer.

“When it comes to modern joint replacement, people of all ages have more options,” says David Romness, MD, a total joint specialist and Chief of Orthopedics at Virginia Hospital Center. “In the not-so-distant past, younger patients with advanced arthritis were told to live with the pain, cut back on activities and wait until later to have joint replacement. But today’s patients refuse to be sedentary or compromise their quality of life.”

Minimally invasive approaches, improved implant design, and refined surgical techniques have dramatically reduced recovery time. For these patients, the typical recovery period is now weeks rather than months. Most patients are up and walking immediately following surgery and regain range of motion, strength and flexibility after several weeks of physical therapy. Hospital stays have been reduced to one or two days and the vast majority of patients go directly home without having to use a rehabilitation center.

How do you decide if joint replacement is right for you? When pain and disability prevent you from living the life you want, and non-operative measures such as physical therapy, medications and cortisone injections have failed, surgery may be recommended. Learn more at Virginia Hospital Center’s free joint replacement event this fall. Dr. Romness and his colleagues will discuss every aspect of hip and knee replacement, including the latest surgical techniques, implant materials and recovery time. Joint replacement patients will share their success stories. The event will be held on Saturday, November 14, in the Hospital’s John T. Hazel Conference Center, 1701 North George Mason Drive, Arlington. Admission is free, but registration is required. Register today at

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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