Kaiser Health News recently covered a common issue: that knee replacement surgery, one of the more frequently prescribed orthopedic procedures, doesn’t always fulfill its promise.
Most knee replacements are considered successful, and the procedure is known for being safe and cost-effective. Rates of the surgery doubled from 1999 to 2008, with 3.5 million procedures a year expected by 2030.
Research suggests that up to one-third of those who have knees replaced continue to experience chronic pain, while 1 in 5 are dissatisfied with the results. A study published last year in the BMJ found that knee replacement had “minimal effects on quality of life,” especially for patients with less severe arthritis.
The average cost of a knee replacement is $31,000. Does the opportunity to reap this profit weigh in the decision process of orthopedists and color their communication with their patients?
Alternatives to surgery exist and oftentimes are effective. In fact, as Kaiser Health News points out,
Significantly, most of those treated with non-surgical therapies were satisfied with their progress. Although all were eligible to have knee replacement later, two-thirds chose not to do it.