04.03.2019 Health News

Blow out in artificial joint surgery

Obesity and an ageing population point to a huge increase in joint replacement surgery in Australia

A new study has found that obesity and an ageing population will be the main factors for growth in joint replacement surgeries for osteoarthritis (OA), with people aged over 40 more likely to undergo surgery.

More than 70% of Australian adults are anticipated to be overweight or obese in the next decade and knee replacements alone are projected to increase by 276% in that time.

The projections are based on data obtained through the Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry (AOANJRR) which includes joint replacement procedures performed across Australia from 2003 to 2013.

The study found:

  • Knee replacement procedures for OA were forecast to increase by 276% (from 42,920 procedures in 2013 to 161,231 in 2030).
  • Hip replacement procedures for OA were predicted to rise by 208% (from 25,945 procedures in 2013 to 79,795 in 2030).
  • The proportion of Australian adults who are overweight or obese is anticipated to exceed 70% by 2030, resulting in an extra 25,000 knee replacement surgeries, costing an additional $521 million.
  • Reducing obesity levels in Australia by 5% could result in up to 8,062 fewer procedures – saving $170 million.

Hip and knee replacements remain cost-effective operations for patients with end stage arthritis and numerous studies have demonstrated decreased pain, improved function and better quality of life following joint replacement.

But study author, Associate Professor Ilana Ackerman, from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said the study raised concerns about Australia’s capacity to meet future national demand for joint replacement surgery.

“If surgery trends for osteoarthritis continue, Australia faces significant healthcare budget and health workforce implications,” she said.

“These results provide a strong policy and public health argument for supporting weight loss campaigns and interventions. Strategies to reduce national obesity could produce important knee replacement savings.”

Co-author and AOANJRR deputy director Richard de Steiger said meeting the large growth in surgical demand would also prove challenging for Australia due to pressures on the surgical workforce and health budgets.

“Careful planning is needed to manage the impact of the expected rise in hip and knee replacements on the surgical workforce, operating theatre wait times, and the pressure on hospital administration.” he said.

“Maintaining patient access to these procedures to enable improved quality of life and reduced pain is essential.”

The study was conducted to raise awareness of the problem and to inform future healthcare resource planning policies.

The study is published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.