Joint Replacements Cut Pain for Seniors
Researchers Say Disability Rates Are Down Due to Rise in Joint Replacement Surgery
Nov. 12, 2007 (Boston) -- Joint replacement surgeries are making a big dent
in the pain
and disability rates of senior citizens with arthritis, according to new research presented at the
annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in Boston.
Researchers conducted the new study to learn why there has been about a 2%
reduction in the amount of disability among senior citizens each year for the
past several years.
Increasing numbers of total joint replacement surgeries may be responsible
for this decrease, report the researchers, who were led by Eliza Chakravarty,
MD, assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto,
Calif. There has been a fourfold increase in total joint replacements among
senior citizens since 1982.
Researchers developed hypothetical scenarios to help estimate the impact of
total joint replacement on national disability in people over the age of 65.
They combined estimates on how the surgery affects disability -- using a
standardized self-assessment measure of functional ability called the health
assessment questionnaire (HAQ) -- with estimates of the increasing use of hip
and knee replacements across the U.S. They also reviewed pre- and post-surgery
and data on 483 patients who underwent total joint replacement.
Senior citizens who underwent joint replacement surgery showed improvements
in their HAQ scores as well as a 20% reduction in their pain levels in the
first year after surgery.
Overall, the increasing number of joint replacement surgeries accounts for
about 4%-5% of the national decline in disability for senior citizens, the
And this decline could be even steeper if more seniors underwent joint
replacement surgery, says Jeffrey N. Katz, MD, the director of the Orthopaedics
and Arthritis Center for Outcomes Research at Brigham and Women's Hospital
"The bottom line is that joint replacements are extremely effective, and
there are a lot of older patients who are candidates who aren't getting
them," he tells WebMD. "By doing joint replacements, we are alleviating
pain and disability, and by doing more joint replacements, we could be
alleviating even more pain and disability."
Advanced age does not prohibit someone from getting this operation,
Katz says. "You can be too sick [to undergo the surgery], but you can't be
too old for joint replacements."