Readmission rates are falling for older joint replacement patients

Although joint replacements for older adults have become increasingly popular in recent years, unplanned readmissions for such procedures have drastically fallen, according to a new AARP report.

Researchers found a 60 percent increase in hip replacement rates among adults age 65-84 for hip replacements from 2009 to 2013, but a 38 percent drop in unplanned readmissions for the same years. Knee replacements for adults age 65-84 from 2009-2013 increased by 80 percent, but unplanned readmissions for these procedures fell by 36 percent. For the 50-64 year old populations, however, readmission rates remained stable.

The authors concluded their results are "clearly promising from a Medicare beneficiary perspective." But the stability in readmissions for other groups suggests hospitals are focusing their efforts disproportionately on Medicare beneficiaries rather than the larger population. They also noted device complications were responsible for a large portion of readmissions following joint replacements.

"In fact, the share of hospital readmissions linked to device complications actually increased between 2009 and 2013 among the 65 to 84-year-old age group. Experts have consistently expressed concerns that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not adequately regulate the safety and effectiveness of medical devices, like artificial joints," the authors wrote. "The results of our analysis should serve as a warning to supporters of recent efforts to further reduce such oversight."

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