Today's News

Wednesday, February 28, 2001

U.S. population steadily aging, but staying active

The population of the United States is steadily aging, but increasing numbers of people are not retreating to park benches or TV-soaked days of idleness.

They're staying active at work and play, enjoying the benefits of medical research that tamed epidemic diseases and improved treatments and procedures.

The focus of attention for medicine today is to preserve the quality of life as well as lengthen the life span.

Improving the quality of life by preventing and treating musculoskeletal conditions--the major causes of disability in the U.S.--is what orthopaedic surgeons are trained to do. And, they have a lot to do.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) points out in its Healthy People 2010 project that arthritis affects more than 15 percent of the population, making it a leading cause of disability. The disease not only limits activities, but worsens the quality of life for the affected. It has a major economic impact, resulting in 44 million days of hospital care, $15 billion in medical costs and $65 billion in total costs that include lost productivity.

Osteoporosis affects about 13 to 18 percent of women aged 50 years and older and 3 to 6 percent of men aged 50 and older. One-in-three women and one-in-eight men aged 50 years and older will have an osteoporotic-related fracture in their lifetime. Health care costs for these fractures are estimated at $13.6 billion in 1996 dollars.

Chronic back conditions occur in 15 to 45 percent of people each year, says HHS, and 70 to 85 percent of people will have back pain some time in their lives.

Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of serious injury, but injuries take a toll on people at work, at home and in recreation.

The AAOS 2001 Annual Meeting, which opens today, will bring to orthopaedic surgeons a broad spectrum of valuable information on treatments, procedures and new research to improve the quality of life for their patients. The Technical Exhibits will give orthopaedists a chance to examine and learn about the newest equipment.

Orthopaedic surgeons need that tsunami of information to deal with the myriad of situations they encounter in their practice.

In 1998, the latest available statistics, more than 33.7 million visits were made to orthopaedic surgeons in office-based practices.

Almost half--47 percent--of the visits were for musculoskeletal system and connective tissue. One-fourth of the visits was for fractures, 17 percent for dislocations and sprains and 10 percent for other musculoskeletal conditions such as neoplasms and congenital anomalies.

Orthopaedic surgeons performed 160,000 total hip replacements in 1998, a highly successful procedure in restoring mobility and eliminating pain. If partial hip replacements, revisions and other repair are added, orthopaedists performed 310,000 arthroplasties of the hip.

Orthopaedists also performed 266,000 total knee replacements in 1998. Adding other procedures such as repair of cruciate ligaments and other repairs brought the total number of arthroplasty procedures of the knee to 344,000 procedures.

There also were 72,000 arthroplasty procedures of the upper extremity. Upper and lower extremity arthroplasty totaled 718,000 procedures.

Between 700,000 and 1 million arthroscopies are performed annually in ambulatory settings in the U.S.

Meanwhile, research in gene therapy and tissue engineering is underway that may dramatically alter the way orthopaedists treat some musculoskeletal conditions in the future.

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2001 Academy News February 28 Index B

Last modified 20/February/2001 by IS