Knee replacement surgery becoming a national epidemic

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Knee replacement surgery becoming a national epidemic

CREATED May 15, 2012

Reporter: Aaron Brackett

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Aging baby boomers, a national obesity epidemic, or people simply being more active into their golden years? Whatever the cause is, people are getting more knee replacements. Some experts say by the year 2020, there will be 600% more patients receiving total knee replacement surgery.

By the stride of Randy Creeger, you would never know he went through a total knee replacement - twice.

"I had two knee replacements, I had them seven weeks apart," said Creeger. "I did a little homework and learned if you did them both at once, it could be a disastrous outcome. After having them done, I realized that would be very hard to do."

Getting a knee replaced is no walk in the park. Dr. Lawrence Housman is an orthopedic surgeon at Tucson Orthopedic Institute who says the procedure is a last resort after non invasive means.

"The cartilage surface is what wears off, when the surface wears off, you have bone rubbing on bone," Housman explained. "Instead of a space, you now have bone rubbing on bone. The knee replacement surgery is designed to reproduce that space so instead of bone rubbing on bone which is painful, you now have a smooth gliding surface."

The surgery isn't easy on the patient after doing that much work.

"Its really a serious surgery," said Creeger. "You are physically worked out. When you start rehab, 20 minutes of rehab and you need a two hour nap."

9OYS wanted to know what is the cause for the huge increase in this major surgery? In a study by the Journal of Bone and Joint surgery, doctors concluded obese patients needing knee replacements were an average of 13 years younger than normal weight candidates.

"I think it's a combination, people are living longer, people in their 70s and 80s are saying I want to be active, I dont want to sit in the rocking chair, I want to go out and do things," explained Housman.

Although weight wasn't a factor in Creeger's surgery, he says he is now more active than ever after having the surgery.

"It was really life altering for me in the sense that I thought I was heading down the path of being an invalid," said Creeger. "Now I have taken up backpacking at age 68 which is a totally new experience for me and I am loving it."

 "I am doing these things with my brother and my son and in the summer with my granddaughters. those are experiences I couldn't have if I didn't have these knee replacements."

Doctors say patients that had the surgery usually spend a few days in the hospital, then undergo a few weeks of therapy before they feel better than they did before the procedure. The average cost of a total replacement is around 25 to 30 thousand dollars.