What should I consider if I am young and need joint replacement surgery?

Dr. William A. Leone, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Very young people who are considering hip or knee replacement surgery must be counseled carefully regarding the probable longevity of their prosthetic joints and about which activities they should avoid after surgery.

Current surgical techniques have become much more refined and the bearings of prosthetics are a magnitude better than what was available just a decade ago. In spite of this, you should have a frank discussion with your surgeon about the fact that younger patients will in all probability require more surgery to redo the joint at some time in their lives. If you're extremely young, more than one revision surgery may be required.

As far as joint replacement, anybody younger than 60 is considered young. In their lifetime, they could loosen or wear out a hip or knee replacement and need a more complicated surgery thereafter. That having been said, we're expecting the materials that we have nowadays to last much longer, but we don't know how long they will last because we've not had them that long. I've done hip and knee replacements on young folks, folks in their 30s, with severe degenerative disease or deformity after trauma, and we do it for quality of life reasons. But again, I counsel these people and tell them, "You could wear it out or loosen it in your lifetime."

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If you are young and need a joint replacement, you’ll want to consider two main things:
  • how long the implant will last
  • how it will affect your quality of life
We try to delay a surgery as long as possible, given that joint replacements don’t last forever. The plastic, or polyethylene, material in an implant can wear out over time. This occurs faster in younger, more active patients. A joint replacement is generally quoted as being able to last about 15-20 years. Sometimes it is longer; sometimes it is shorter. With the improvement in the quality and strength of materials, we are hoping that they will last 30 or more years in the future. However, for those in their 40s or even 50s, there is a high probability that they will need a repeat joint replacement surgery at some point in their lives. General risks of a complications, such as loosening, instability or infection, would require surgery much sooner. With this in mind, it is important for you to understand and balance the risks and benefits of joint replacement at a younger age. If you have exhausted all nonoperative options and are unhappy with your quality of life, you might choose to have a joint replacement during your more active years. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.