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Middle-agers who have tried to function with a malfunctioning hip know that the pain and frustration makes joint-replacement surgery appealing. What they may not know is there’s a good chance the artificial hip is going to wear out well before they do.

The latest research on joint replacement suggests that, as effective as this surgery has become over the past 40 years, its risks are not inconsequential — especially for men who opt for the procedure in their early 50s. As many as one in three need revision surgery. Women in the same age group are evidently a bit easier on their new joint: Only one in five require revision surgery.

In The Lancet, lead study author Lee Bayliss, FRCS, an Oxford University orthopedic surgeon, notes that younger, more active patients may be overlooking the required postsurgical recovery time and putting too much pressure on their new hip too soon.

“This rise in the number of patients younger than 60 years undergoing surgery is a concern because joint registries reveal that 10-year revision rates in this group are higher than for older age groups,” he writes.

Revision surgeries carry more risks, and the long-term effects can be sobering: About one in four hip-replacement patients will develop osteoarthritis in the joint.

“Patients who are considering undergoing joint replacement,” Bayliss concludes, “should balance the potential benefits of an improvement in their quality of life against the potential risks of the intervention: death, medical complications, infection, poor functional outcome, and the need for revision surgery.”

By the Numbers

  • 330,000 Number of hip-replacement surgeries performed each year in the United States.
  • 4.4% Percentage of people who required a second surgery within 10 years.
  • 15% Percentage of people who required a second surgery within 20 years.
  • 35% Percentage of men undergoing hip-replacement surgery in their early 50s who later required a second surgery.
  • 4.4 Median number of years before an artificial hip required replacement in patients under
    age 60.
  • $30,124 Average cost of hip-replacement surgery in the United States.

This originally appeared as “Get Hip” in the October 2020 print issue of Experience Life.

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