Hip, Knee Replacements Do Ease Symptoms

People who undergo the surgery are usually happy they did, study finds

TUESDAY, July 15, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Undergoing hip or joint replacement surgery may well be worth the trouble for older adults with severe osteoarthritis, researchers say.

In a new study, symptoms improved markedly more in patients who had undergone this type of surgery a year previously, relative to patients who had not had the procedure.

The findings, by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, were published in the July 14 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Although osteoarthritis, known as the "wear-and-tear" form of arthritis, can occur in individuals of all ages, it becomes more common as people age. According to the American College of Rheumatology, some 70 percent of people over the age of 70 have evidence of the disease on X-rays. Only half of these ever develop symptoms, however.

Still, with the rapid aging of the U.S. population, that means a sizable number of people will suffer anywhere from mild to extremely debilitating symptoms, experts say.

Osteoarthritis causes pain and can also restrict mobility and function. Medications and physical therapy often fall short in relieving symptoms in people with severe stages of the disease.

This study involved 174 men and women aged 65 and older (average age just over 75 years) who suffered from severe osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. During one year of follow-up, 29 percent of participants underwent joint replacement surgery, including 30 knee replacements and 21 hip replacements.

Although it often took weeks to recover from the surgery, those who chose this option tended to experience better outcomes.

The team noted that 45 percent of those participants who did not have surgery said that the procedure had not been offered to them as an option. These same individuals also tended to be older, have lower incomes, be anxious about potential complications with surgery and have a longer recovery as compared with individuals who underwent surgery.

More information

There's more on osteoarthritis at the Arthritis Foundation.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives of Internal Medicine, news release, July 14, 2008
Consumer News