Joint replacement to cost $5 billion by 2030, research reveals

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Knee and hip replacements for osteoarthritis are expected to rise by up to 276 per cent by 2030, costing Australia’s health care system over $5 billion, according to new research.

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

The 2030 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, published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, found:

  • Knee-replacement procedures for osteoarthritis were forecast to increase by 276 per cent (from 42,920 procedures in 2013 to 161,231 in 2030).
  • Hip replacement procedures for osteoarthritis were predicted to rise by 208 per cent (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 per cent by 2030, resulting in an extra 25,000 knee replacement surgeries, costing an additional $521 million.
  • Reducing obesity levels in Australia by five per cent could result in up to 8062 fewer procedures – saving $170 million.

Hip and knee replacements remain cost-effective operations for patients with end-stage arthritis. 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,” Associate Professor Ackerman 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 Richard de Steiger said meeting the large growth in surgical demand will 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,” said Professor de Steiger

“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.

Associate Professor Ackerman said: “In order to meet joint replacement demand in 2030 and beyond, investment in prevention programs designed to limit obesity and other causes associated with hip and knee burden in Australia demands serious consideration.”

Have you had a knee or hip replaced? How long did you have to wait for the surgery? Are you currently on a waiting list to have your knee or hip replaced? How long have you been waiting?

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Written by Ben


Total Comments: 10
  1. 0

    Well, I won’t be a participant! Told 20 years ago, both knees needed replacing due to injury and subsequent o/a. “Too Young” they said. I only have bone and nerves now and due to inevitable hospital caused post op mrsa (not a carrier), an op is not an option! I would rather get “legless” on a lovely JW Black!! 2 major nerve roots trapped in disintegrating spine (inoperable), do not take any pain medication as the dosage required would make me a “zombie”. I have a very high pain threshold, however, the pain is present in every movement. I am “lucky”! I woke up this morning, thinking, smiling, communicating and getting around! I could be worse!! Good Luck to anyone needing joint replacement surgery!!

  2. 0

    And with the spike in these procedures, comes the Health Insurance Companies gouging seniors. I have always held private Health Insurance (needed due to a child hood accident and ongoing procedures with specialist doctor). But over the years I have watched health insurance companies pushing joint replacement up into higher or the highest costing schemes. I just checked some old paperwork from 15 years ago (yes, time I had a cleanout), and I was paying $10.25 for a bronze cover every f/n. This included joint replacement.
    Up until a few weeks ago, I was paying $82.45 p/f for a Gold Cover package. Have just received a letter saying that as from April 1st, I will be paying $89.65 for a Silver Plus package. Joint replacement still covered. But can guarantee that soon they will make joint replacement only available for Gold Plus members.
    I am on full pension, and have come close to cancelling the Insurance. But having seen the benefits this cover gives me NOW, thank heavens I have held on to it. But I do not know how long I can maintain this.

    • 0

      I am with you sunnyOZ! Have maintained private health cover since I left School! It is extremely expensive for two of us, but, fear the consequences if not covered at all!
      Although, in my situation, no surgeries will be performed by choice.

  3. 0

    I’ve been waiting 2 years now – should have happened last year but because I had some heart issues had to postpone the knee replacement, on the advice of my cardiologist. Now I have been removed from the waiting list altogether, because I “have gone over my time to have surgery.”!! Can’t get any answers from the orthopaedic team at the hospital. It’s not as if I chose to knock the opportunity back, I didn’t ask to develop cardiomyopathy! Not sure where to go from here, or if I have to go through the whole rigmarole again from the bottom of the list. The joys of the public health system! Even though I can hardly walk, it’s still “elective” surgery

  4. 0

    After years of achy knees and doing nothing about it (except complain!),I tore my medial ligament, which necessitated an xray. Due to the previous pain I asked for both to be filmed,my GP told me that both were near bone on bone, and I would have to have them replaced “down the track”.
    A few months later, a Pilates studio opened close to my home. I have attended 3-4 times a week for the last two years, doing their well constructed sessions, and I now go days without even giving my knees a thought. I am delighted! Absolutely no pain in my knees, or anywhere else for that matter. I mentioned it to the senior instructor, and she, although pleased, was not surprised. She said that the Pilates strengthens the muscles around the knee, giving them support. Other benefits have been: no sore neck after spending too much time on the computer, and no backaches after a day of gardening.
    I am a convert for life!

  5. 0

    So except for the obvious point of avoiding obesity, where are the strategies for preventing joint replacement in this article?

    SunnyOz, I am really coming to the conclusion that private health cover is not worth the paper the policy is written on. Last year I had a spine operation, all up it cost me $10,000 in surgeon and specialist charges. I received from Medibank Private (Top hospital cover) only $733.55 towards this plus they covered my hospital accommodation so in total $1614.32. The same year I paid Medibank $3154.20 in fees. So in a year when I had an $11,000 operation I was $1,539.86 worse off by having private medical cover than if I hadn’t and paid the entire bill myself.

    • 0

      Joint replacements are not all they could be either,and some doctors say that they may only last 15 years and after that can’t be re-done.
      i have advocated Borax for arthritis over the years, never imagining i would get it.
      Over the last cuppla years I have been forced to limp due to painful leg, but hard to know where the problem was, but recently pain became extreme so had X-ray, and showed white inflammation at top of leg, Doc. said “Quite Severe” Arthritis and booked me in for hip joint replacement, – likely to be at least two years.
      So I decided to take my own advice, taking app 6/10Mg Borax/day, most pain gone, can walk without the limp, – still occasional twinges after lotsa walking eg mowing, but heh, life is so much better.
      Due to artificial fertilizers dmaging the soil biology, most people in Australia are Borax deficient, borax is essential to allow the hypothalamus to balance the calcium in the blood, – which affects teeth, bones and joints.
      I would certainly believe certain exercises would do good also, and diet is important, – acid foods should be minimised, and if you drink alcohol, Gin is the least acid, the main thing I feel about Joint operations is that they are best avoided if possible.

  6. 0

    As there is now a Non Transdermal patch doing the same, but far more effectively than a risky (and often ineffective) expensive Stem Cell procedure, there may be hope for many people suffering with these issues. And the cost? Perhaps just a couple of hundred dollars using something anyone can apply at home instead of a Stem Cell procedure costing $10,000 to $20.000 or more.

  7. 0

    Some good and informative posts from Olbiddy, Cosmo and Lookfar.
    I also wondered, as Cosmo did, why haven’t they mentioned other causes of Knee O/A other than obesity? Many obese people also continue to move well even when older, so clearly there are other causes. For example:
    a.I know people with Knee O/A have been adversely affected by Statin, yet there seems to be a cover-up and even medical people don’t want to admit it, however research is there on the Internet.
    b. High dosage of Vit C (say 2,000mg / day, or maybe lesser) can cause Knee O/A to worsen as Vit C (that harmless & wonderful vitamin) produces Uric acid which attacks the knees – again research is there on the internet.
    c. Foods to which you may be allergic – may be individual, however I am surprised when people first complain of Knee pain, why don’t doctors a) check whether your medications are causing it, and b) do an Allergy test to find out which foods may be damaging you. Seems common sense – but that’s clearly missing!
    In the meantime, Orthopaedic surgeons are having a great run!

    So yes, I find this article and the comments from the Assoc Professor very, very light on “Prevention” as other causes are not covered.



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