New Study Shows Knee Replacements in the US Provide $12 B In Lifetime Societal Savings

Research reveals orthopaedic surgery has a social and economic impact

Total knee replacement (or total knee arthroplasty (TKA)) is one of the most successful and life-enhancing surgical procedures. It relieves almost all pain for 90 percent of patients who have the procedure, allowing them to return to work and tremendously enhancing their quality of life.

A new study published in 2013 by the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS) and conducted by health economists has confirmed total knee replacement surgery to be a cost-effective treatment for patients with end-stage osteoarthritis. By modeling indirect savings of the individual returning to the workforce after surgery, researchers found a lifetime societal net benefit for patients undergoing knee replacement averages between $10,000 – $30,000.

More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States. With an aging population staying in the workforce longer and obesity on the rise, demand for total knee replacement surgery is expected to exceed 3 million by the year 2030.

Given the increased focus on the cost effectiveness of health care, this study compared direct and indirect costs between surgical and non-surgical treatments. The increased direct costs for a knee replacement (e.g., all medical costs for surgery and rehabilitation) averaged $20,704, but these expenses are offset by indirect savings equal to $39,697.

Of the $10,000 – $30,000 in lifetime societal net savings, 85 percent of indirect savings originated from increased income, through a combination of increased probability of working and higher earnings. The remaining 15 percent of societal savings came from indirect costs such as fewer missed work days and lower disability payments.The study estimates lifetime societal savings (net present value) of about $12 billion from the more than 600,000 total knee replacement surgeries performed each year in the U.S.  These societal savings primarily accrue to patients and employers.

Societal Savings from Reduced Indirect Costs Chart


Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President of Ortho Spine Partners and Partner for The De Angelis Group. He also serves as Co-Founder and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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  1. I think it’s great that knee replacements are very successful when done. Over 600,000 knee replacements is also a huge burden on health care costs. Poor lifestyle choices are correlated to the vast majority of people that I have seen have knee replacement. If obesity rates were lower and people improved their overall fitness levels we could cut that number in half. Once again the medical community focuses on symptoms instead of the underlying causes…obesity (from abysmal food habits) and lack of activity.

  2. Narrow minded twit!!!
    The vast majority of knee replacements are done on the baby boomer generation. A generation that has been more active then the previous. Not knowing the correct way of moving is the main problem.
    This problem is only to be replicated by the next generation….and onward goes, the trashing of the knee.

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