BIDDEFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER)- Joint replacement surgery has long been used to treat advanced arthritis and other problems in elderly patients. But active lifestyles, improvements in technology and less invasive procedures are driving much younger patients to get their joints replaced and a new lease on life.
Lacing up shoes is something most people wouldn't think twice about, but for Michael Roche it had become excruciating.
'It was the constant throbbing, nagging pain. It eventually wears you down. Putting on shoes and typing shoes, laces, putting on dress socks. It had really become a hassle.' said Roche.
Roche had been physically active all his life.
He says the throbbing pain began in his left hip about 6 years ago. Doctors eventually told him he had advanced arthritis.
At 38, Roche underwent hip replacement surgery An operation similar to the one shown in the video. Because of the limited lifespan of replacements, the procedure usually reserved for older patients, nationally the average age is 67.
Dr. Adam Rana is an Orthopedic Surgeon at Maine Medical Center. He says total joint replacement has increased 80 percent in the past 7 years at MMC, especially in the younger, active population. He says the replacement joints available now are expected to withstand the wear and tear, possibly up to thirty years.
'Our expectations have improved, our materials have improved, so we are seeing a larger and younger age group we are performing these procedures on, said Dr. Rana.
Roche was up on his feet the day of his surgery and walking on his own in two weeks. He eased back into physical activity four months later and even started skiing again.
He says being active without pain has greatly improved the quality of his life.
Roche says it took about 9 months before his 'new' hip felt like a part of his body that he was born with.
'I don't feel anything artificial or anything, ti feels like a good hip and it's working like it should be,' said Roche.
Doctors say patients who ease slowly back into physical activity have the best outcomes following the surgery. They also say the obesity epidemic is also spurring the increase in joint replacements.