“It is a clear trend. We see the same developments in Finland, Britain, the US and Australia, but we are still a bit behind these countries,” said orthopaedist Tore Dalén, of the Swedish Orthopaedic Association to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
According to the paper, there are some 13,000 knee prosthesis operations carried out in Sweden every year, which amounts to three times as many as during the 1990s. The increase is also clearly visible in all age groups.
But new figures from the Swedish knee prosthetic register show that the numbers are soaring among those in the age span of 45-54. In 1990, 80 such operations were carried out. In 2010, the corresponding number was 880.
The figures also showed that eight in ten that have the surgery are overweight or obese, meaning that they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 25. For a man or a woman who is 167 centimetres tall, that would mean a weight from 70 kilogrammes and up.
“It is clear that several more of our patients today are obese and this is something we discuss during our surgery seminars. We generally say that if Average Joe of Sweden would lose ten kilogrammes of weight, the number of knee operations would halve in Sweden," Dalén told the paper.
And according to the experts it doesn’t take that much overweight to constitute knee problems.
Orthopaedist Stefan Lohmander and his colleagues have followed 28,000 Malmö men and women over the course of eleven years. Their study showed that those who were obese were eight times as likely to be affected by such severe arthrosis that they will be in need of knee prostheses.
No one knows how long the new prostheses will last, according to DN. So far, most of those receiving artificial knee joints have been older and therefore less physically active.
Experts fear that many will be forced to have their artificial joints replaced in future, reports DN.
“We are dealing with a ticking bomb. We know that those who are under 65 run twice as high a risk to be forced to have another operation. And the second is rarely as successful as the first,” said Otto Robertsson of the Lund Knee and Hip register.