Will There Be Enough Orthopedic Surgeons to Meet Joint Replacement Demand?

According to a new study by Dr. Iorio and his colleagues to be presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the numbers of hip and knee replacement surgeries have increased dramatically in the last 10 years.

Dr. Iorio, senior attending orthopedic surgeon at the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts said, "We are preparing for an epidemic of serious proportions."

In 2005, 285,000 total hip replacements and 523,000 total knee replacements were performed in the United States. By 2030, these two procedures are expected to jump to 572,000 and 3.4 million, respectively. Said Dr. Iorio: "The demand for these procedures will grow rapidly, and the orthopedic workforce will not be able to keep up. The supply of orthopedic surgeons will only increase 2 percent during 2000 and 2020. What we have on our hands is an access problem."

A 2005 survey of more than 23,000 AAOS members revealed:

  • 30 percent identified themselves as general orthopedic surgeons
  • 13 percent of orthopedic surgeons identified themselves as specialists in sports medicine
  • 10 percent identified themselves as hand surgeons
  • Only 7 percent identified themselves as primary surgical specialists for the adult hip and knee

"Simply put," Iorio added, "there will be a need for services that overwhelms the supply of physicians who will be able to fill that demand. Patient care is of utmost concern to us. Getting arthritic patients back to the quality of life they once had is always first and foremost. If these projections come to life, the access for a joint replacement will negatively impact patient care."

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