Knee Replacements and Hospital-Acquired Infections

Should you get a total knee replacement?

This question is officially bouncing off walls and echoing down halls in doctor offices’ across America.

Total knee replacement (TKR) surgeries are higher than ever and ever increasing, landing over 700,000 patients in 2010 (the most recent reported year by the CDC) and expected to grow almost 700 percent by 2030 to 3.5 million TKRs.

But should this be alarming? Baby boomers are now grandparents, surgeons are more comfortable with the operation, and their success rates are equivocally skyrocketing. Plus there’s this classic response: Americans are fat.However, weight only accounts for a quarter of the rise in TKRs, according to the Arthritis Center for Outcomes Research. The study also cites earlier diagnosis of osteoarthritis, consumer’s increased exposure to artificial joints, and a rise in surgeons’ recommendations as major factors. TKRs were considered a drastic measure or last resort in the 1980s when they first hit operating tables; today that’s just not the case.

And that’s fine; after all there is no current treatment to slow osteoarthritis, only ways to momentarily deter the pain like with medications or limiting intense activities. However, there are some areas for concern.

While TKRs themselves may help most individuals relieve pain (until they need a replacement, which is not good news for younger individuals selecting the operation) they of course, carry some serious risks which may not be adequately explained to all patients- though not on purpose.

National knee replacement infection lawyer Brian White and advocate for safer surgery procedures closely follows the rates of hospital-acquired infections (HAI), or infections contracted by patients through hospital care while in the hospital for an unrelated issue. There are five main types of HAIs, but the most common are surgical site infections.

“While many procedures – routine and difficult alike- are completed without a hitch, other peopler are seriously injured or even killed as a result of complications during or after surgery.” White writes on his site. “These injuries take a significant physical and financial toll.”

While the physical suffering is a given following many surgeries and subsequent infections, the mentioned financial burden is no exaggeration. Just check out the statistics in this infographic below, made in conjunction with 1 Point 21 Interactive.

Cost of HAIs

More unsettling, one in 25 patients will contract an HAI during their hospital stay. The CDC is now monitoring this rate and just released the annual report for 2015- unfortunately, the one in 25 patients remained unchanged.

This is all worth mentioning because of a study conducted by Health Affairs in Washington state. The researches implemented what they called “decision aids” into a large Seattle-based heath care system. The aids were designed for patients considering total knee and hip replacement surgeries (also on the rise, though not as drastically). The materials included a video and a brochure detailing pros and cons of the operation and interviews from patients who opted in and those who decided on other less permanent treatments. The results? The decision aids led to 38 and 26 percent fewer TKRs and total hip replacements, respectively, over six months. Added bonus- the decline in surgeries significantly lowered costs for the health care system.

This study is from 2012. Here’s what I’d like to know today: how many are happy with their decision to opt in or out; how many who opted out have now had a TKR; how many had complications with their surgery? Though I’m no researcher or even a proficient data analyzer, it seems the decline indicates patient’s better understood the pros and cons after going through the provided material. And it’s quite possible many have now had a TKR, to which I’d say is also fine. They are a helpful and important surgery, it’s just choosing the right time to get the operation that seems to be slipping away.

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