While watching the network TV news last evening, I was jolted by a TV commercial for an artificial hip joint. The ad featured animation of very active people with very young-looking body forms – muscular young shapes playing soccer, skiing, running, cliff climbing, even surfing. Not the demographic we usually associate with hip joint surgery. Not that there aren’t younger people who choose to pursue hip joint replacement because of problems early in life. But it struck me that this younger demographic was the sole focus of the figures depicted in the commercial.
I remembered how former US Senator David Durenberger (R-MN) wrote two years ago pondering if joint replacement had become the new lasik surgery after he saw a freeway billboard.
It’s noteworthy that the big device maker which placed the ad just last week introduced a new hip joint product at an orthopedic surgery conference.
Somebody earlier today reminded of the phrase – a “carpet-bombing” campaign. I think we’re seeing one here.
These joint replacement ads are not new. They’ve been drawing attention for at least 4 years.
But as even a simple Google search shows, hip replacement is not and should not be an easy choice. It requires a detailed discussion of patient values and of the tradeoffs between benefits and harms that people should understand.
Not the kind of detail we get in TV commercials showing a muscular young guy on a surf board.
Addendum on Feb. 27:
See how Naomi Freundlich on the Health Beat Blog built on my post, putting in a lot of work to deepen the discussion.