It used to be that the average patient for a hip replacement surgery was between 65 and 80 years old. The surgery, first performed in 1960, is a major undertaking, involving one of the body’s larges weight-bearing joints. However, advances in technology and surgical techniques, combined with today’s expectations about continuing strenuous or challenging physical activities later in life have contributed to a growing population of younger patients.

According to a report in the Dallas News, orthopedic surgeons are reporting that it is not unusual for someone as young as 50 to get joint replacement surgery. In fact, statistics indicate that by 2011, more than 50 percent of patients receiving hip replacements will be younger than 65. The demand for such procedures also is increasing.

Contributing factors for joint replacement requests include the rise in obesity, which puts stress on joints like hips and knees, as well as strenuous exercise or participation in sports that may result in a joint injury.

Recovery time is shorter now as well, with hospital stays lasting only a few days, and rehabilitation exercises beginning almost immediately. Some patients are up and walking the day after surgery.

Unfortunately, for many recent hip replacement patients, the procedure that should have left them feeling better and increasing their mobility has resulted in the opposite. At the end of August, DePuy Orthopeaedics, a division of Johnson & Johnson, recalled parts used for hip replacements due to a high rate of revision surgery needed by the people who received the parts. The recall will affect an estimated 93,000 people.

The recall includes the DePuy ASR XL Acetabular System and the DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System. Patients who received these parts are reporting a variety of symptoms including pain, swelling and problems walking. Serious problems with the parts include loosening, in which the implant doesn’t stay attached to the bone in the correct position; fracture, where the bone around the implant may have broken; and dislocation, where the two parts of the implant that move against each other are no longer aligned.

Adding to the problem, the movement of the hip replacement parts against one another can cause metal shavings from the parts to embed in the tissue in the hip area, complicating revision surgery.

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