You’ve probably heard a story or two about the adult child who is concerned that their 80- or 90-something-year-old parent’s doctor is recommending a hip replacement. They feel their parent is too old to undergo major surgery. That it’s too dangerous. That it’s not “worth it.”
If you are one of those children (or that parent), let us put your fears to rest. Hip replacement isn’t just for 60-year-olds anymore, and here’s why:
1) Elderly people deserve quality of life. Let’s face it, 80 isn’t that old anymore. People are living well into their 90s, and as painful conditions such as osteoarthritis become more severe year after year, experts agree that otherwise healthy elderly seniors deserve the chance to stay active, pain-free and independent as long as possible. That said, certain health conditions can make the procedure more risky, and orthopedic surgeons take this into account. If your elderly parent’s doctor says he or she can safely undergo hip replacement surgery, trust the professional.
2) Hip replacement is a treatment for hip fracture. If a hip fracture is the reason for the surgery recommendation, it is more important than ever to have the procedure. Many hip fractures simply won’t heal on their own without surgery (and in these cases the surgery can be lifesaving). Also, attempting to repair the hip rather than replacing the joint entirely leads to a longer, more arduous recovery. With advancements in hip replacement, we can have the patient up and on their feet the very next day.
3) Elderly patients do better than you’d expect. A 2014 study looked at people in their 80s and 90s undergoing total knee replacement. While people in their 90s did not have as good of outcomes as those in their 80s or younger (and that was to be expected), they did better than older studies suggested they would and did not show a higher rate of complications such as infections, deep vein thrombosis or lung embolisms. Why is that? It could be that improved surgical and anesthetic techniques, more effective medications, and better screening of patients by doctors has contributed to the upswing.
Yes, the field of orthopedic surgery has come a very long way in a short time. Hip replacement for people in their 80s and 90s is not what it was in the ‘80s or ‘90s, which is great news for older people wanting to stay mobile, active and healthy.