Is there a “right” stage of life for joint surgery? What age is too old, or too young, to undergo a joint replacement?
This question has no definitive answers. Traditional medical opinions are changing, especially as more people are beginning to suffer from osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint diseases at earlier ages due to sedentary lifestyles, poor diets, and obesity.
While there is no precise, perfect age for joint replacement surgery, there is a general rule of thumb: if your ordinary daily actions – such as sitting, standing, walking, driving, working, or shopping – are compromised, seek medical help, even if that ultimately means a joint replacement surgery is necessary.
An orthopedic surgeon will examine you and provide you his or her best recommendations on your treatment options. You may also want to get a second opinion.
Good Candidates for Joint Replacement
A person’s overall health, the severity of the joint problem, and the extent of disability come into play when determining whether the person is a good candidate for joint replacement surgery.
In some cases, osteoporosis may disqualify a person for joint replacement surgery if the bones are too brittle to properly support an implant.
While age is an important consideration for any surgery, including joint replacement, it is not the most critical factor. It is one variable among other equally important ones. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits.
The decision to operate must be based on the right reasons and evaluations. All other alternatives should be tried and eliminated. The facilities and execution must be professional and state-of-the-art.
Joint replacement that improves function, independence, quality of life, and ability, is desirable regardless of age. If viable safe surgery can do this, no one should have to endure a life of pain.
Joint Replacement in Elderly Patients
Perhaps the patients whose quality of life is most transformed are those in their 80s and 90s. The relief from pain and disability, return to independence and favored activities including sports can make all the difference for elderly patients.
They may need special treatment, monitoring, and care – both before and after the procedure – by a team of healthcare professionals because elderly patients often have other co-existing and age-related medical conditions. A hospital staffed with expert teams, and having a track record for successful surgeries is critical.
Elderly patients are also likely to need more extensive postoperative assistance and care at home and should make suitable arrangements.
Joint Replacement in Young Patients
Surprisingly, the age-related factor that might disqualify a candidate from joint replacement surgery is being too young.
Joint devices and implants have a defined lifespan. To avoid revision surgery, doctors will sometimes advise waiting unless the condition is debilitating.
In addition, younger people are more active and wear out their prostheses sooner. A younger person undergoing a joint replacement is likely to need another replacement surgery 15 – 20 years later.
Prosthesis failure is a painful condition that can limit the mobility and efficiency of the affected joint. This tends to affect younger patients more frequently, and often calls for revision surgery.
Very young candidates need counseling and careful explanation of their condition, their options, the nature and lifespan of their implants, and pre- and postoperative protocols. They should know that multiple revision surgeries might be needed.
Generally speaking, joint replacements are performed on patients between 60 and 80 years of age, and most are women. But those older or younger are not automatically precluded. Teenagers, young adults, and even children may be suitable candidates if their condition demands it to relieve pain, improve function, mobility, and quality of life.
All other factors being favorable, there is no upper age limit for a joint replacement surgery. Today, many elderly patients are in good health, making them good candidates for the procedure.
The staff at Orthopaedic Associates utilizes cutting-edge therapies and traditional treatments to address a variety of orthopedic conditions. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (440) 892-1440.