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Surgeon Attitudes Shifting About Joint Replacement In Younger Patients

Tue, 05/07/2013 - 10:29am
Candace Nelson

Jessica Boggs, 30, isn't sure what made both of her hips deteriorate just over four years ago.

"In November of 2008, I woke up one day and could put no weight on my left leg. It was throbbing," the Charleston resident said. "My primary doctor thought I pulled a muscle. In January 2009, I got an X-ray, and it showed my bones starting to deteriorate rapidly."

She went through four surgeries, two to save the bone with plates and screws. By February 2010, both of her hips had been replaced. Her condition forced her to use a wheelchair, crutches and a cane.

"It was a pretty emotional time. I was bedridden. It had a lot of emotional effect on me," she said. "You have no access to the outside world. You feel so helpless because you can't go out on your own. But I came out stronger because of it.

"We have no idea -- there was nothing in my medical history to show this. I wasn't obese. I don't smoke. I haven't taken steroids. We just have no idea; It was a fluke case," Boggs said.

The average age of people needing joint replacement surgery is getting younger, said Dr. James B. Cox, orthopedic surgeon with Teays Valley Orthopedics.

"Typically the population who undergoes hip or knee replacement surgery is an older set," Cox said.

"But we are seeing younger and younger people who require hip replacement surgery."

The average age range 10 years ago would have been 70 to 75, he said. Now, the average patient is 65 to 70. Some are much younger.

Dr. Phillip Surface, an orthopedic surgeon at Ortho Clinic in South Charleston, said about 15 percent of his patients are younger than 50.

There are several possible reasons problems are starting earlier in life.

It's no secret that obesity remains a problem nationwide. Among the myriad risks associated with being overweight is wear and tear on joints.

Extreme sports also have seen an increase in popularity, leading to more sports-related injuries.

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