Replacing joints early may be better than waiting for some osteoarthritis sufferers

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Waiting too long to have hips and knees replaced has negative effect, study finds

In a study, scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Toronto Western Hospital followed the progress of patients who opted to have joint replacement surgery. They found that those patients who had postponed having the surgery the longest — and therefore were experiencing the most pain and loss of joint function — also experienced the worst results two years after joint replacement surgery. “Many patients and doctors have traditionally regarded this kind of surgery as a last-resort sort of procedure,” said the study’s senior author, Jeffrey Katz of BWH. “But we found that patients could have a positive impact on their quality of life by being proactive about the real benefits associated with having this surgery before their conditions completely degenerate.” In the study, 222 patients were divided into two groups: those with higher joint function and less pain, and those with more pain, and less joint function. Researchers noticed very little difference between how people felt after six months, compared to how they felt after two years. However, the patients who went into surgery feeling the worst, also felt worse than the healthier group two years after having their hips or knees replaced.