Joint Replacement an Option for Elderly
Study Shows Hip, Knee Replacement May Help Elderly Patients With Osteoarthritis
WebMD News Archive
July 14, 2008 -- Knee or hip replacement surgery may be
a viable option for relieving the pain and disability caused by osteoarthritis among the elderly.
A new study shows older adults who have hip or knee
replacement surgery for severe osteoarthritis may take several weeks to
recover but have excellent long-term results.
Researchers say that as the U.S. population ages, the number of elderly with
osteoarthritis is increasing, and noninvasive treatments, such as drugs and
physical therapy, are of only limited value for severe cases.
Joint replacement surgery can relieve pain and restore function to the
affected joints, but researchers say few older people with osteoarthritis are
offered surgery as a potential treatment option because of the associated
Surgery Option for Osteoarthritis
In the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,
researchers followed 174 older adults aged 65 or older (average age 75) with
severe osteoarthritis of the hip or knee. The participants were evaluated
between 2001 and 2004 and again a year later after treatment.
Overall, 29% of the participants had either hip or knee replacement surgery.
Of those, 17% had complications following surgery, such as deep wound infection
and blood clot in the lungs (pulmonary embolism); 38% had pain lasting more
than four weeks after surgery.
No deaths were reported among those who had joint replacement surgery.
Researchers found patients aged 75 and older took about the same amount of time
to recover from surgery as those aged 65 to 74.
During recovery, most elderly patients required assistance with daily
activities like shopping and household chores for more than a month.
A year after treatment, elderly patients treated with joint replacement
surgery experienced more significant improvements in osteoarthritis symptoms than
those who did not have surgery.
Researchers found that nearly half of the patients who did not have joint
replacement surgery said surgery was not offered to them as a potential
treatment. Those who did not have surgery also tended to be older, have lower
incomes, and be more worried about surgical complications and a longer recovery
than those who did have surgery.
"Many patients were not offered surgery or chose not to have surgery
owing to concerns about postoperative complications or prolonged recovery,"
write researcher Mary Beth Hamel, MD, MPH, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center in Boston and colleagues. "Improved communication between physicians
and patients may allow more elderly patients to make informed choices and to
thoughtfully weigh the risks and burdens of joint replacement surgery against
its benefits in alleviating pain and improving function and quality of