What is the right age for hip replacement?

Author: Derick M. Johnson, DO

According to the American Joint Replacement Registry (AJRR), participating surgeons performed 92,780 primary total hip replacements and 7,253 revisions in the U.S. in 2016. 

The average age of patients who underwent these procedures? 67 years old. 

Does that mean this is the right age for hip replacement? It depends. 

At both ends of the age spectrum

In the past, many felt that both younger adults and those of advanced age weren’t the best candidates for hip replacement surgery. Younger individuals are typically much more active, which can cause wear and tear on an artificial hip—and those at the opposite end of the age spectrum often have additional health issues that can make major surgery a challenge.  

However, perceptions about performing hip replacements in both populations is changing. With advances in materials, improved surgical techniques, and better post-operative therapy, both younger and older patients are benefiting from the positive outcomes that hip replacement surgery can provide. Consider the results of two studies about age and hip replacements as reported by the Arthritis Foundation (AF): 

“One study found that many hip replacements implanted in adults younger than 50 are still performing well 35 years later. Another found that undergoing hip replacement surgery at age 90 or older is relatively safe.” 

AF notes that most people who have hip replacement surgery are between 50 and 80 years old—a range consistent with AJRR data. Yet study results such as these demonstrate the fact that age alone shouldn’t be the determining factor. Instead, the decision to undergo hip replacement surgery should be based on individual patient needs.  

Quality of life and overall health

Total hip replacements are a common surgical procedure that can help dramatically improve an individual’s comfort, mobility, and overall quality of life. In the AF discussion of the advanced age study, experts note that individuals who have managed to live into their 90’s are often in relatively good health—but impaired mobility may have a major impact on quality life and independence. Instead of viewing advanced age as the deciding factor, surgical options should be considered in the context of an individual’s specific circumstances and overall health.

A less invasive approach

A significant factor in achieving better post-operative outcomes for hip replacement surgery involves improvements in surgical techniques—such as the anterior, muscle-sparing approach to hip replacement. Our own Dr. Derick Johnson is an expert in anterior total hip replacement:

“Direct anterior hip replacement allows us to reach the hip joint from the front of the hip instead of the side or back. Unlike traditional surgical techniques, anterior approach means we can replace the joint without disturbing or detaching muscle from the pelvis or femur during surgery.

We simply work through the natural separation between the muscles. With an anterior hip replacement, you may be able to immediately bend your hip freely and bear full weight when comfortable, resulting in a faster return to normal function.”

The benefits of this approach include:

  • Smaller incision and scar, with less pain
  • No detachment of muscles from pelvis or femur, with decreased risk of hip dislocation
  • Quicker recovery and shorter hospital stay
  • More precise placement of the components, leading to increased longevity of the prosthesis and accurate leg length
  • Few, if any, post-surgery ‘hip precautions’ and faster return to full function

As a result, patients typically have a smoother course of recovery and healing, as this graphic clearly indicates. https://hollandboneandjoint.com/hip-and-knee-replacement/

If you are experiencing hip pain that is impacting your mobility and quality of life, treatment options are available.  Contact us today for an evaluation so we can help you decide what may be best for you.