Half of the Pie: Revealing Study on Efficacy of Joint Surgery

Half of the Pie: Revealing Study on Efficacy of Joint Surgery

If you experience knee or joint pain, you have probably had surgery recommended or suggested to you at some point. Stories of grandparents or co-workers who benefited from surgery follow you as you wonder whether your doctor is recommending the best course of action. A new study in Canada has revealed that joint surgery is not always the best choice. Only half of a group of people who experienced knee and hip replacements actually found their quality of life improving.

This study reveals that even if you think joint surgery is the best option, it might not be an immediate ticket to pain-free life. Here’s what you need to know about this initial study.

Some people report benefits

While only half of the people studied reported benefits from their knee or hip replacements, they did mention benefits, at least. People who benefited tended to be in worse pain, have fewer health problems in other areas, and have no arthritis outside of the joint affected and replaced. If you have limited arthritis, too, this may be a viable option.

Of course, if you have arthritis in several joints, simply getting a hip or knee replaced might not add significant benefit to your life. In general, people do experience arthritis in multiple joints, and your doctor should be able to talk with you about reasonable expectations from joint surgery.

Comprehensive study covered 2,400 people

Of the thousands of people studied and tracked between 1996 and 2011, all older adults with osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis and living in Ontario, Canada, 479 had a joint replaced. 202 of these surgeries were elective, and the researchers were able to compare information about their pain and disability before and after the surgery. Researchers found that most of the people studied were women with pain in multiple joints, and 80 percent were overweight or obese.

By the time a year to two years passed from the surgery date, the average person scored an improvement of ten points on a 100-point scale, but considering that the starting rate was 46.5 out of 100 on average, this isn’t a miracle surgery. The minimum “important difference” is nine points, after all, and only 54 percent of the patients hit this target.

Weight might not matter

For years, doctors have assured patients that the more weight they lose, the better they will recover after a joint replacement surgery. This might not be true, however. A valuable piece of insight from this study is that people’s weight did not predict how they fared – whether positively or negatively – after the surgery. Overweight and obese people can benefit from the same diet and exercise as others, but one’s natural and optimal body weight can now be respected.

Given that procedures are expensive, sometimes difficult to get, and debilitating for some time after surgery, it is important to discuss the viability of joint surgery with your doctor before signing up for it. If you are in the 50 percent of patients who do not display a significant improvement in pain, it will be frustrating, to say the least! Take the time now to do your research and see whether joint surgery is truly the best option for you.

Andrew Huang is an avid skier who injured his knee several years ago. He spends his free time sharing how he handles his knee pain by blogging on various health and fitness sites. To learn more about relieving knee pain, go here.

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