Hip replacement a good option for young arthritis patients

Joint replacement procedures are often reserved as last-resort options for many patients. Physicians usually recommend preventive care measures of physical therapy to help patients regain mobility and comfort in their daily lives.

However, young patients often fare better under the rigors of surgery, which makes joint replacement a viable option. According to a recent study conducted by researchers from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, patients under 35 years old with chronic arthritis fare exceptionally well during recoveries from hip replacements. The findings may make these procedures more likely to be prescribed for younger patients in the future.

A hip issue
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 332,000 hip replacements are performed in the U.S. every year. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases explained that hip replacements have traditionally been reserved for patients over 60 years of age, though recent research has pushed more physicians to operate on younger patients.

Mark Figgie, M.D., chief of surgery at the Surgical Arthritis Service at the HHS and senior author of the study, investigated how patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis fared through long-term recoveries from total hip replacement procedures. Figgie looked at 565 patients in total.

The findings indicated that, 10 years after surgery, 85 percent of JIA patients experienced no major complications that required revision surgery. Twenty years out, 50 percent of patients needed ongoing medical attention.

Surgery gets younger
Though the average time for necessary follow-up procedures was 12 years, Figgie claimed that the fact that the majority of young JIA patients stay healthy after surgery proves the viability of hip replacement procedures for patients regardless of age.

"The surgery in this patient population, although performed by only a small number of specialized orthopedic surgeons nationwide, is life-changing for JIA patients," Figgie said in a statement. "Joint replacement can free patients from a life of unrelenting pain. It can enable those in a wheel chair to walk again."

Out of the 56 study subjects, 41 underwent bilateral replacements and 15 only had a single hip operated on. In total, this meant 97 independent joints replaced within the scope of the study.

Figgie was careful to note that because JIA patients are younger to begin with, a 10- or 20-year period without complications may be too short to last a significant portion of patients' lives.