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Are you too old for a new hip?

Woman walking beside older woman.

Your age may factor into your decision to have joint replacement surgery. But it isn’t the only thing to consider.

Hips wear out—that's a fact. And they are more likely to wear out as we get older, due to conditions like arthritis. That means older people are often the ones who might have the most to gain from a new hip.

Surgery is a big decision at any age. If you're wondering if it's too late to have a hip replacement, consider these answers to some common questions.

Q: How old is too old for a new joint?

A: There is no absolute age restriction, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Most hip replacements are performed in people who are between the ages of 50 and 80. But your surgeon will consider your health risks and how hip replacement might help you as an individual.

Q: What are the potential benefits?

A: If pain and stiffness limit how you live your life, hip replacement can offer relief and improve your ability to take part in activities that you want and need to do. It may even help you continue to live independently.

Q: What are the potential risks?

A: Overall, the risks associated with hip replacement are low, according to the AAOS. But the risk of complications from any major surgery rises as you get older. The risks from surgery also rise if you have certain health conditions, such as diabetes, especially if your condition is not well-controlled, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Q: Do hip replacements work as well for older adults?

A: Most studies say yes. In a study that appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that adults in their late 70s and 80s benefit just as much from surgery as younger people in their 60s and early 70s. Most older patients needed help with household chores and shopping for more than a month, but they saw excellent results in terms of less pain and improved use of their joints.

Q: What makes an older adult a good candidate for surgery?

A: You need to be healthy enough for surgery and the recovery process, including physical therapy. Your doctor will check your health before you have surgery.

Q: What if surgery isn't right for me?

A: The bottom line: People of all ages have successfully undergone joint replacement surgery, the AAOS reports. But if that surgery isn't the right choice for you, ask your doctor what treatments may work. Your doctor might suggest physical therapy, medicines or even other types of surgery.

Reviewed 9/7/2021

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