Ask Dr. Wickum: Is there an ideal age to have hip replacement surgery?

Will your age affect the success of your hip replacement surgery? Dr. Wickum weighs in with his observations, based on extensive experience.

Osteoarthritis is among the most common forms of arthritis, and the most frequent reason for a hip replacement. Also called degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis results from wear and tear of the cartilage cushioning the hip joint. It typically develops slowly over years, affecting more than 27 million Americans. A variety of non-invasive pain treatments are available. When hip pain is non-responsive or affects your ability to function, you may want to consider hip replacement surgery.

The good news is that surgical solutions have advanced to include both traditional and minimally invasive hip replacement procedures. Technology has improved the artificial parts so that they withstand more stress and last longer. And although hip replacement surgery was traditionally reserved for patients over 60 years of age, medical advances have made this surgery very successful in younger patients as well. Research even suggests that surgery prior to advanced joint deterioration tends to offer an easier recovery and a better outcome.

Given medical advances and outcome research, patients may well ask: is there an ideal time to have a hip replacement surgery? Dr. Daren Wickum, a Summit orthopedic surgeon with extensive experience in hip replacement surgery, offers his observations about timing hip replacement surgery.

“I’ve replaced hips in patients ranging in age from 26 to 96 years old,” says Dr. Wickum. “My practice has taught me that age is just a number. I see patients in their 60s, 70s and 80s who remain very active with passions like golf, swimming, dancing, or yoga—they make me feel lazy by comparison! When one of my patients is diagnosed with arthritis, my goal is to avoid surgery if possible. I prefer to help patients get better with other options. When we’ve tried all other avenues and my patient is still living and coping with pain and dysfunction, then we look at surgery.”

“Every patient has an individual, personal reason to move forward with a hip replacement,” says Dr. Wickum. “One of my younger patient was born with a specific deformity of his hips. He’d been dealing with the pain and dysfunction all his life. He told me that he was tired of feeling like his grandpa, when all he wanted was to feel normal and more his own age. He understood the risks and the benefits of hip replacement. Because he is younger, he knew that the metal and plastic prosthesis probably would wear out in time, requiring another surgery in the future. He had the surgery, and is currently enjoying life and living in the now, instead of waiting for his next cortisone shot or his next prescription of arthritis medication. Surgery was the right choice for him.”

“I’m here to offer advice and help guide my patients’ decisions,” Dr. Wickum explains. “But my patient is the only one who will know when it is time, whether they are 26 or 50 or 83.”

 

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