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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Joint Replacement May Reinvigorate Sex Life

Study shows unsung benefit of the surgery may be the ability to enjoy all aspects of life more


Before surgery, 67 percent of respondents reported having physical problems with sexual activity that included pain and stiffness; reduced sex drive (49 percent); an inability to attain the necessary position (14 percent); and psychological issues such as a lack of well-being (91 percent) and low self-image (53 percent).

After surgery, 42 percent of the patients reported an improvement in interest in sex; 35 percent said they had increased duration of intercourse; 41 percent reported more frequent sex; 84 percent said they had improved well-being; and 55 percent reported having an improved self-image.

Hip replacement patients had a higher rate of improvement than did knee replacement patients, and after hip surgery, more females reported improvement in sexual activity than did males, the investigators found.

Rodriguez said the researchers think the results show that sexual function needs to be included in the routine evaluation of patients after both surgeries to help answer patients' questions about the safety of sex after surgery.

He noted a few limitations of the study: the results are based solely on the self-report by patients and includes only those responses sent back. "It's possible only the people interested in sex bothered to send back the surveys," he noted. Rodriguez also said he wished he had consulted with an expert in sexuality. "We basically just made up the questions we thought we should ask, with some help from some of our patients," he explained.

Yet the outcomes of the study make sense, said Dr. Giles Scuderi, vice president of orthopedics at North Shore-LIJ Healthcare System in Great Neck, N.Y. "The most important message here is overall performance and self-image are improved. Patients' lifestyles are definitely better after these surgeries," Scuderi said.

A second study slated to be presented at the meeting by Swiss researchers showed that patients undergoing total hip replacement surgery are more active than were patients who got the procedure a decade ago. They also found that most of them return to their previous recreational activities, including biking, hiking, swimming and golfing.

Scuderi said there are about 720,000 total knee replacement surgeries and 450,000 total hip replacement surgeries in the United States annually. On average, he estimated the cost for the surgery, hospital stay and implants for an average joint replacement is about $25,000, not including the cost of rehabilitation.

Because the studies were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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