Balancing the Hype: Orthopedic Marketing in Joint Replacement

Balancing the Hype: Orthopedic Marketing in Joint Replacement

In recent years there has been a recurring cycle of marketing ploys trying to capitalize on the "new and innovative" procedures in the field of orthopedic surgery in an effort to gain market share. Usually, many of these issues are reasonable alternatives and legitimate treatment options. However, the amplified "marketing" aspects create a distortion in the mind of patients. Occasionally some of these promotions are often closer to the category of "misleading" in their respective contribution to a patient’s overall result. Subsequent physicians are often put on the defensive when their opinions differ, and thus may seem "out of step" with new techniques and innovative advancements.

Over the last several years, the following items were gaining the headlines: the Uni knee replacement, the "two incision" total hip, MIS- minimal incision surgery, Total Hip Resurfacing, "muscle sparing" approaches to the hip and knee, the anterior approach to the hip, the female knee, the rotating platform knee, the high flexion knee, "Custom" instrumentation for total knee.

In general, the physicians involved may have genuine and sincere opinions regarding the procedure or technique they are advocating. When it comes to medical details, it is difficult for prospective patients to discern a physician’s personal opinion from proven objective benefits. It is also often true that studies may exist documenting some of the claimed benefit. However, I think it is a disservice to the public not to acknowledge that there are perhaps as many or more studies that may negate the promoted benefit.

Here are a couple of examples of recent studies from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons meeting AAOS .

The "Gender" female knee shows no improvement in results compared to other brands.

The "High Flex" knee shows no advantage in range of motion compared to standard total knee in patient studies.

The "Rotating platform" knee has no advantage to "fixed" bearing knees in wear rates or function.

The "Anterior Approach" to the hip shows no benefit in function or recovery time in total hip replacement.

Resurfacing Total Hip has no advantage over regular total hip.

"Custom instrumentation" shows no benefit to standard instruments in cost savings or results.

Uni Knee replacements have higher revision rates in the medicare population compared to standard knee replacements.

There may always be proponents and opponents of various surgical procedures. But the presentation of the "new and innovative" as generally agreed upon consensus is disingenuous

These are the personal opinions of Dr. Mayer and not necessarily shared by all group members.

-JGM