Bone leery: Boomers putting off orthopedic treatment

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Baby boomers are increasingly pounding the pavement as long-distance runners and other weekend warriors. Now fear of having to pound the pavement looking for a job in a rough economy has some of them putting off orthopedic surgeries such as knee replacements.

Dr. Scott Oliver, an orthopedic surgeon at Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, said his department had four orthopedic surgeries canceled just last week. He said one patient who cancelled owns an air-conditioning business and was afraid to miss work. Another patient, who did have surgery, was told she risked losing her job if she didn’t return within six weeks, which was shorter than the recommended recovery period.

Oliver reports that his overall volume is down 20 percent, and other surgeons say they are hearing of similar drops, especially at smaller hospitals. According to Massachusetts Hospital Association numbers, 59 percent of hospitals are reporting a decline in elective surgery for the quarter ending March 31. The MHA did not break out numbers for orthopedic surgery.

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