Younger patients for knee and hip replacements need the medical device industry to get ready

With more people under the age of 65 seeking to have knee and hip replacement surgery, we wanted to know how this trend will impact the medical device field. We asked our Zintro experts to tell us what might be behind this trend.

LeapMedical, a consultant with experience in areas of interventional cardiology and endovascular devices, says that in an aging population, many medical device areas will respond to this trend, not only in the utilization of the devices but to also better serve and market to consumers. “Knee and hip replacement will increase along with the physical therapy needed to rehabilitate these patients back into an active lifestyle,” he says. LeapMedical also sees growth in medical areas that address spinal disc degeneration. “This is part of the aging process and it affects discs and may increase surgeries for disc replacement and implantations of spinal nerve stimulators for pain relief,” he says.

Dimitri Aslandis, a professional materials and metallurgical engineer and expert in medical device materials and technologies, says that the implantation of medical devices in younger people will demand the development of devices with

  • extremely high endurance and stability,
  • multifunctional performance (strengthening during aging, modulated surfaces with external sourcing, regeneration of surfaces),
  • impended activation mechanisms, sensoring, and monitoring systems and
  • recovery procedures.

Curtis Larsen, a consultant serving the medical products packaging industry for 35 years, says that as the average patient age for total knee and hip arthroplasty goes down, the demand for more robust designs, more stable fixation methods, less traumatic procedures with faster recovery times, and stronger, more wear resistant materials will increase. “The increased demand will drive competition, lowering prices and reducing profit margins for the manufacturer,” says Larsen. “The manufacturer will have to improve designs while wringing costs from processes, materials and cost of sales. The devices and procedures will become more of a commodity item in the healthcare market place.”
Larsen points out that less invasive procedures will result in shorter patent stays in the hospitals, so the overall cost to the healthcare community will be reduced. This model will help drive other major surgical procedures to evaluate and develop newer, less invasive, and more cost effective procedures and devices.
Albert de Richemond, an investigator of medical device accidents, says that younger patients who receive knee or hip replacements may have to endure updates or future full replacements. “While biological parts can usually repair themselves, mechanical parts need to be surgically replaced. Both joint replacement prostheses use a plastic bearing surface that is worn away with time. If worn away to the base, then metal on metal wear can occur and lead to other problems,” he says.

If a late middle-aged person has a replacement, he or she will likely need a bearing surface replacement in their 70s. “This can be dangerous because of the possible fragility of the patient, de Richemond says. “New medical instruments may require upgrading to remove the worn parts and take out the prostheses for fragile older bones. Also, because the lifetime of these prostheses is about 20 years, records and instruments must be available for future use.”  He points out that ceramic prostheses have been used in the past , but fail explosively under impact loads (e.g., running, jumping) and are complicated to clean up and repair.

By Maureen Aylward

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