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Tuesday, 7 September, 1999, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Hip replacement demand 'to double'
Hip joints
Replacement hip joints are expensive
The need for hip replacements could double within the next 30 years, researchers have warned.

They said the cost could place a severe strain on health service budgets.

In 1992, hip replacements cost an estimated 231.3m and currently account for two thirds of the total costs of hospital treatment for osteoarthritis in the UK.

The researchers, from the Arthritis Research Campaign epidemiology unit at Manchester University, estimate that the number of hip replacement operations will rise from 46,000 in 1996 to 65,000 in 2026.

Prosthetic hips can cost from 200 to more than 2,000. One of the top priorities for the National Institute of Clinical Excellence is to decide which variety the NHS should use.

The researchers, writing in the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, say the increasing age of the population will be a major factor for the higher demand.

If there are no major changes in current patterns of treatment, the rise in the numbers of late middle aged and elderly people will ensure a 40% rise in hip replacement surgery within the next 30 years.

More demand from men

The researchers estimate men will need disproportionately more of this surgery than women - 51% compared with 33% - with rates set to double in men over the age of 85.

They say demand could be further fuelled by any attempts to reduce waiting lists and target those most at need.

Rates of hip replacement in Sweden, which has a health system similar to the NHS and where guidelines on the procedure have been introduced, are almost double those of the UK.

If this model was applied to the UK, rates in the over 75s would increase by over 40% by 2006, 55% by 2016, and by 113% by 2026, conclude the authors.

Dr Fraser Birrell, of the ARC epidemiology unit, said: "If demand is to be met over the next 30 years then it will require a great increase in resources.

"Hip replacement is a successful operation which is better value for money than other interventions such as coronary artery bypass grafts which may have more political impact and are better funded."

Osteoarthritis tends to affect the elderly because it is, in part, caused by the wearing away of cartilage, the material which prevents bones grinding together at a joint.

People with the advanced form of the disease are unable to undertake day to day activity, and often cannot sleep at night because of the pain.

Hip replacement surgery can, in the majority of cases, completely remove that pain.

See also:

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