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The Boom in Boomer Hip Replacements

By Sheryl Kraft

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I remember years ago when my grandfather was about 75, he had hip replacement surgery to help relieve the severe arthritis pain that limited his activities. From what I recall, it was a tough surgery and resulted in a lot of time in the hospital, followed by rehab, followed by more time to get back to his normal activities. And I knew plenty of other elderly people who were undergoing the same surgery.

The possibility of getting a brand new hip amazed me, as did the relief from chronic pain and the freedom to walk comfortably that so many people got from the surgery.

And now it amazes me even more that I'm part of the generation that is seeing skyrocketing rates of hip replacements. According a recent , the number of total hip replacements for the 55 to 64 age group tripled from 2000 to 2010. And for those between 45 and 54, the procedures increased a whopping 205 percent—from 138,000 to nearly 311,000 a year.  

You can probably guess why this is: a combination of the larger boomer population and their intolerance for living a sedentary or less active life. As a generation, boomers were—and still are—very active. Many started playing sports and exercising when they were very young.

"We have known for a long time … that we are going to be doing many more hip replacements in the United States," said Dr. Robert Molloy, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic who is quoted in an .

He goes on to say that patients now have more confidence than they did 20 or 25 years ago that they can get back to their formerly active lifestyles because of the better implant devices on the market today. Due to technological advancements, the longevity of the implants can be up to 20 years for most patients, depending on factors like body weight and activity levels.

I'm no stranger to the boom in boomer hip replacements. About a month ago, my husband, Alan, was the lucky recipient of a brand new right hip. And five years ago  he got his left hip replaced. Years of running had taken its toll on his hips, causing excess wear and tear and deterioration, leading to osteoarthritis in both joints.

The Ups and Downs of Recovery

After a two-day stay, Alan (and his cane) came home from the hospital—with lots of instructions and precautions. I removed our throw rugs to eliminate the danger of slipping, installed a shower grab bar and lined up the various medications for easy access.

There would be no driving. No bending from the waist. No sitting, except on a firm chair with arms, atop a cushion or pillow (so that the knees stay positioned below the hips). No crossing his legs. No leaning forward while sitting. No picking up something from the floor. No sleeping on his stomach (his favorite position). No working from the office for about two weeks.

We had to stay hyper-alert for signs of infection, like fever. Ice packs crowded our freezer. Inactivity (save for a few exercises prescribed by the physical therapist) ruled his days, peppered with frequent naps. 

Recovering from hip replacement surgery is not straightforward; there are bumps and setbacks along the way, as there are with many surgeries. One day, you're feeling hopeful that the pain you felt yesterday has finally let up. Then, you awake the next day in worse pain than two previous days. You sleep through the night one night; then barely sleep the following evening because of intermittent, throbbing pain throughout the night.

Physical therapy is necessary to strengthen the hip joint and restore movement and function, but sometimes you feel worse after a session than you did going in.

It's easy to get discouraged, depressed and disappointed, and even to question your decision to have the surgery. It's also easy to feel like the cycle of pain will never end and that you've made a big mistake and will be living in chronic pain for the rest of your life.

My husband has been through all of these cycles. In fact, almost a month out, there are still restrictions, frustrations and pain. But the good news is that those are becoming less frequent, as are the naps and sleepless nights. And when we went on a slower-than-usual two-mile walk this morning, I could feel his optimism returning. In fact, he's already talking about taking part in a half-marathon in January of 2017!

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Comments

I've had so many friends go through this, mostly easier than I thought. Thank goodness! I guess we are just living much longer and things wear out.

Agreed; we're definitely outliving our bodies in many ways, Carol.

I am so glad your husband is doing well after this surgery. Hip replacements seem to be almost as common as knee replacements nowadays.

Thanks, Helene...you're probably not as glad as HE is!

So glad that there are good days now too and maybe a bit of rest! It is amazing how far medicine and joint replacement has come.

Great info in the perfect package Sheryl -- one that everyone can understand and use!

Yes, finally the good days are outnumbering the bad. Nice to see the light of day emerge..

Everything seems to working great with my body. Knock on wood! But I've broken bones and I followed all the doctor's orders and made a full recover each time.

Keep up the good work, Janie! A broken bone sure beats needing a joint replacement.

Your husband's progress is encouraging! I know many people who have replaced hips or knees - it is becoming so common. It's good to know what the recovery really is like! Like yours, my grandfather had a hip replacement years ago. I remember my grandmother charged him a nickel every time he tried to cross his feet at the ankles as he was accustomed to sitting but which was not allowed during recovery!

That's such a cute story about charging a nickel for every time he tried to cross his feet...today it would have to be a lot more than just a nickel, wouldn't it?

Wow, who knew this was so prevalent? I'm glad your husband is on the road to recovery.

I'm glad to read this (and glad your husband is doing well - a half-marathon - wow!) because I feel like a hip replacement might be in my future, and I wonder if it's partly because I sit at this dang computer all day and don't move around enough. At any rate, good that the surgery/recovery is getting better all the time.

I had my right hip replaced about six years ago and I would be crawling instead of walking if I hadn't. Surgery always takes a while to recover from. Glad to hear your husband is doing better.

Did he have an anterior? I am scheduled for one and am anxious.

Even one of seniors in office went to have the same surgery. He is doing wonderful these days after considering the pain he went through.

I've had have two hip replacements,the first one 8 years ago and the second one a year later.

On both occasions it took 6 weeks before I was walking normally without any aids but they have been fantastic.

The arthritic pain I was suffering from before I had them done was terrible. Sure I was nervous about having them done but I'm pain free and walk for 3 hours every morning.

I recently had the misfortune of having to under a pretty intense hip
replacement. I had to undergo some reconstructive surgery in order to correct a severe trauma. The whole process leading up to the surgery was traumatic for obvious reasons. I don’t want to go into too much detail but during my surgery, my team used a FAW blanket called the Bair Hugger and it helped so much with my post surgical recovery. I credit my super quick recovery to the blanket. Here are some facts about the system

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