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Orthopedic Surgery on the Rise in Pennsylvania

About one in 200 Pennsylvania residents underwent joint replacement surgery in 2010, according to a new study by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4).

The study presents data collected from surgery centers and hospitals statewide to showcase the changes in orthopedic and spinal operations between 2006 and 2010. 28,090 state residents, age 18 or older, underwent a common spine procedure in 2010. The rate was higher, 1 in ever 222, among people 65 and older.

In that five-year period, the number of hospitalizations for knee replacements increased 16.1 percent, hip replacements jumped 22.2 percent, and shoulder replacements more than 100 percent rise.

Gary Tuma, Director of Communications and Education at PHC4, said the rise in orthopedic treatment is partially due to the aging baby boomers.

"Although it's not exclusively older people who get these kind of surgeries, it does tend to be older folks," said Tuma, "and so I think it's a window on part of what we can expect when that segment of the population increases in age."

He said the study examined the cost of the procedures. In 2009, about $193 million was spent on Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) payments in joint replacement hospitalizations.

Tuma said many of these surgeries are a last resort.

"In many cases, there are things you can do to avoid ending up in a situation where you need one of these surgeries," said Tuma. "Healthy eating, exercise, things like that can, not always, but in most cases, put you in a position to avoid these types of surgeries."

In 2010, Western Pennsylvania had higher rates in the number of hip and knee replacements, spinal fusions, discectomies, and decompression laminectomies than other parts of the state.

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