Younger adults seeking new answers for joint pain

By R. Michael Meneghini, MD

Hip and knee replacement surgery has traditionally been associated with older adults – those beyond age 65. Today, however, people in their 50s and even 40s are considering joint replacement surgery to relieve pain so they can stay active, continue their favorite activities and maintain their quality of life.

To serve this emerging younger population, extensive research is ongoing to design cutting-edge orthopedic implants that are durable, have improved bearing services and that will minimize risks and side effects. On the surgical side, techniques such as navigation technology, which monitors the position and alignment of the implant in relation to the patient’s anatomy, achieve improved mobility and range of motion for patients. Today, some 90 percent of knee replacements are expected to last 20 years or more. And, although hip and knee replacements are arguably two of the most successful surgeries in medicine, they are still invasive procedures accompanied by risks.

For people of all ages, the best ways to prevent degenerative joint disease and the need for joint replacement surgery is to stay physically fit and to maintain a healthy weight. Excessive weight puts undue pressure on the joints, causing degeneration. However, if joint pain and discomfort are already an issue, seek out a reputable orthopedic surgeon and schedule a consultation. (I discourage patients from using the internet as a resource, as it contains a lot of inaccurate and misleading information. Consult with a qualified and experienced orthopedic specialist instead.)

After taking a complete medical history, the surgeon will perform an exam and order x-rays of the affected joints for evaluation. The x-rays will show the extent of cartilage loss and help determine whether joint replacement surgery is an immediate remedy or an option that should be considered down the road. The surgeon will also discuss how the joint pain impacts quality of life. In nearly all cases, orthopedic specialists will try non-operative treatments first – medication, injections and/or physical therapy. When warranted, hip and knee replacement surgery helps patients return to the activities and lifestyles they enjoy.

R. Michael Meneghini, MD, specializes in orthopedic surgery. He is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Orthopedics & Sports Medicine – Saxony, 13100 E. 136th St., Ste. 2000, in Fishers. He can be reached by calling the office at 688-5980.