Orthopedics Shortage - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Monday, April 24, 2006

Orthopedics Shortage

Experts expect the number of knee and hip replacement surgeries to increase nearly 700% in the next 25 years.  So, will there be enough doctors to handle the increase? We sent Ten O'clock news reporter Ric Blackwell to find out.

Frank Moorehead / Hip Replacement Patient: "Every step I took was painful."

Frank Moorehead broke his hip in a waterskiing accident. Thankfully, The pain stopped after hip replacement surgery.

Frank Moorehead / Hip Replacement Patient: "I find I'm as good as new."

Frank is one of over a half million people who get a new hip every year. West Palm Beach Orthopedist, Dr. Edward Sandell performed Frank's surgery.

The procedure features a metal base driven into the thigh bone with a cup. Attached to the hip bone is a ceramic ball that fits into the cup, giving the patient a full range of pain free motion.

Dr. Edward Sandell / Orthopedist: "If you have a hip problem, I say do it right away, the sooner the better. If you don't do it soon, you could have a tougher time finding a physician down the line."

The popularity of the procedure combined with an an aging popularity will mean a six-fold increase in the amount of hip and knee replacement surgeries over the next two decades. Experts says the there will not be enough orthopedic surgeons to handle the workload.

Dr. Edward Sandell / Orthopedist:  "I imagine it will come to the point where people replacing joints, who are not doctors."

Dr. Sandall says fewer physicans are getting into orthopedics because it doesn't pay as well as some other specialties.

Dr. Edward Sandell / Orthopedist: "It all boils down to the money. There are problems with Medicare reiumbursement and office overhead, it's not an easy problem."

Adding to the problem, is the rising cost of medical malpractice insurance. Surgeons know they can fix a knee or hip. The question is can they fix the economics of performing the surgery?

One positive in dealing with the problem is the improvements in the materials used in hip and knee replacement. The metal and ceramic joints can last for decades. That means fewer patients coming back for second surgeries.

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