Growing numbers of Americans are outliving their joints. More than a million operations are done annually to replace worn-out knees and hips, and that number is expected to skyrocket in the coming decades as the population ages.
I negotiated the chairlift to the top of Snowmass without incident on a perfect blue-sky day in the Colorado Rockies. So far, so good. I took as deep a breath as a person can at 11,000 feet, pointed my skis downhill and made my first turn in the fluffy morning snow — on a brand-new titanium-and-plastic left knee.
Five years ago, Dr. Ira Kirschenbaum, an orthopedic surgeon in the Bronx who replaces more than 200 knees each year, would have considered it crazy to send a patient home the same day as a knee replacement operation.
And yet there he was this year, as the patient, home after a few hours. A physician friend pierced his skin at 8 a.m. at a Seattle-area surgery center. By lunch, Dr. Kirschenbaum was resting at his friend’s home, with no pain and a new knee.