Top Surgeries For Baby Boomers
No one looks forward to surgery, but Baby Boomers can look forward to medical advances happening during their lifetime that can slash pain and speed healing when going under the knife. Aging is one of the biggest factors that ups your odds of needing surgery, so this news can come as a huge relief for the first Baby Boomers who turned 65 in 2011. (About one in five Americans will be older than 65 by 2030).
"We will continue to see more and more options for less invasive surgery techniques that will lower the risk of complications and lessen recovery time," says Don E. Detmer, MD, MA, FACS, professor of medical education at the University of Virginia. Here are the most common surgeries for people 65 and older, and the innovations you can expect to see in your lifetime.
The Surgery: Knee Replacement
337,623 a year
How it works
Getting knee replacements for baby boomers may be as common as getting chocolates on Valentine's Day. In fact, rates for this type of surgery are expected to surge by as much as 600% percent by 2030. Women are more likely than men to need a knee replacement, possibly because they're more apt to go to the doctor in the first place and to have rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects the joints. Until recently, total knee replacements came in a handful of "standard" sizes for men, women, and children. Thankfully, customization is the name of the game for knee replacements in the future.
You wouldn't want to wear a shoe that's the wrong size, and the same is even truer for an artificial knee. "We're moving more and more towards tailoring personalized knee replacements by using computer imaging to map out the individual dimensions of the knee as well as the degree of damage to the joint so we can create instruments and implants specific to the patient," says Brian Bacot, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with a private practice in the US Virgin Islands. "This option should be increasingly available over the next few years or so." Plus, newer materials made of various metals and plastics will help implants last longer.
The Surgery: Angioplasty and Stent
291,289 a year
How it works
You probably already know that blocked arteries can lead to a heart attack, the biggest cause of death for Americans. It used to be common for docs to do a minimally-invasive procedure temporarily using a balloon-like device during an angioplasty to help open up narrowed arteries. However, about 20 percent of patients were repeat customers when their arteries inevitably narrowed again and they had to go back to open them up. So cardiologists started inserting metal stents more often to physically keep the arteries open, and today's drug-coated stents slash your risk of needing another angioplasty by 90 percent while delivering heart medicines across the artery walls.
Gone may be the days of metal stents in the future, thanks to scientists now researching biodegradable ones. "With a biodegradable stent that breaks down over the course of several months, the body's own healing mechanism remodels the artery so that when the scaffolding eventually degrades, the passageway is left open," says Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, FACC, FAHA, FSCAI, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "We need to do larger human studies to see if it will be promising for treating patients in the future. If it pans out, it will probably become available this decade."
Patients with metal stents must take blood-thinning meds due to an increased risk of dangerous blood clots, so the biodegradable stent breakthrough would be especially important for those who can't tolerate such drugs long term, but who could benefit from stents.
The Surgery: Hip Replacement
193,005 a year
How it works
The normal wear and tear that comes with advancing age is a common culprit behind the need for a hip replacement--as is osteoarthritis, heredity, and accidents from vehicles or sports. Hip replacement operations may balloon by as much as 137% by 2030, and thankfully surgeons are being trained in less invasive techniques. "There's been a surge in minimally invasive surgery in the last decade," says Dr. Bacot. "In fact, incisions for hip replacements have shrunk from 24 centimeters more than 25 years ago to only four centimeters today."
Dr. Bacot says there's an uptick in the number of doctors using what's known as the anterior surgical approach to the hip, which moves the muscles out of the way--rather than cutting through them--in order to access the joint. "This improves patients' recovery time and outcome because the tendons and muscles don't have to heal," says Dr. Bacot.
The hope that you or someone you love may never need a hip replacement may not be only wishful thinking: Technology in diagnosis and treatment are heading in the direction of being able to treat deteriorating hips before they get damaged beyond repair. "One of the biggest trends happening in hip arthroscopy allows surgeons to insert a small camera and instruments by making one-centimeter incisions called portals," says Dr. Bacot. "The technique helps us pinpoint problems, such as damaged capsules, loose fragments in the joint, and inflamed tissue early; and treat those issues by inserting special devices to repair only the areas that need it, preventing the damage they would otherwise cause."
live longer and age well
The diet that can help you live long and well, fight disease, boost immunity, strengthen bones, lubricate joints and make you feel better overall.
Find out the most important tests, tips and more for women of all ages
Find out the symptoms of osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis, and what you can do to help thinning bones.
Wouldn't it be nice to feel 21 again?
Give your body a good once-over to see if trouble may be lurking.
These little tweaks make life great now and could buy you time, say SELF's medical advisor, Henry Lodge, M.D.
Ditching cigs adds a decade to your life—this, plus other ways to live longer
Keep your mind razor-sharp and body finely honed with these 11 anti-aging drinks.