Joint replacement demand growing


POCATELLO — Dr. Aaron Alternburg has always been a high achiever. He was a valedictorian in his high school class and completed a prestigious fellowship for orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic.

Altenburg does about 700 joint replacements a year — that’s nearly 10 times the average — and the demand for replacements is growing.

People are living longer and doing more in their old age, causing their joint to wear out — this is where Altenburg steps in.

To satisfy the high, and increasing, demand for joint replacements, Altenburg runs two operating rooms simultaneously. While he’s operating on one patient, the next is being prepped.

There was a series of reports recently about how it’s better to have a surgery in the morning, instead of the afternoon because there are more mistakes and complications later in the day.

Duke University also did a study in 2006 about afternoon surgeries and updated it in 2016.

The study said the link between afternoon surgeries and complications is because of fatigue, shift changes and people’s circadian rhythms naturally dipping in the afternoon. This combination makes people more vulnerable to mistakes in surgery.

Altenburg thinks you can mitigate this risk by not having that 30 to 45 minutes of downtime between operations — it leaves less room for fatigue. He said the variation in intensity level is what he believes leads to more mistakes. Which is why as soon as he’s finished with one patient, he goes straight on to the next operating room.

Surgeons and hospitals who handle a high volume of patients and do a high number of surgeries tend to have fewer mistakes and better patient outcomes, according to the Hospital for Specialized Surgery.

Altenburg agrees and compares it to the 10,000-hour rule found in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” Gladwell writes in the book, to become an expert in something a person needs 10,000 hours of practice in the field.

Reporter Isabella Alves can be reached at 208-542-6711 or follow her on Twitter @IsabellaAlves96.