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Direct-to-consumer hip joint commercials

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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.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed the new TV commercials.

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.

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Gregory D. Pawelski

February 23, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Bingo! Gary
This commercial’s (and a lot of others) young demographic was the sole focus. The demographic usually associated with hip joint surgery IS the Medicare crowd.
Bacteria will find synthetic surfaces, such as orthopedic joints. Fighting implant infecton is far more complex than simply getting a prescription for antibiotics. Bacterial that grow in biofilm communities can be as much as 10,000 times more resistant to antibiolotics than the sol-called planktonic bacteria, which circulate around the body as individual cells.
Resolving an implant infection usually requires that the implant be entirely removed, the surrounding tissue cured of infection, and then a second prosthetic device is implanted. This can take months and many tens of thousands of dollars. Solving this problem requires a broad range of expertise from many different disciplines.
With a market valued at more than $16 billion and a projected value exceeding $23 billion by the year 2012, orthopedic implant procedures are becoming increasingly widespread. With this continued growth, however, comes an ever increasingly critical need to reduce the associated risks. Implant infection is emerging as an extremely important medical problem.
I’m not normally up on things like orthopedic joint implants, but I’ve had to deal with the consequences of them over the last ten years with my mom and dad. It was a rue awakening, the say the least. How naive we are when we don’t do the homework first.


March 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

This article is featured in the March 3rd edition of the Health Wonk Review. Thanks for your submission!


May 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I have seen the same hip replacement commercials. Now I see more lawyer commercials for defective implants than anything else. This article is also posted here – .