Replacing a Knee May Save Your Heart

Osteoarthritis patients who underwent knee replacement surgery may have lower heart failure and mortality risk

February 8, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Some arthritis patients need surgery to repair severely damaged knees. You might think such surgery would bring relief only to the affected knee joints. But knee replacement surgery may offer even more benefits.

Elderly patients with osteoarthritis who undergo total knee replacement surgery may have a lower risk of heart failure and death.

"Ask your doctor about surgery for osteoarthritis."

In a recent study, Scott Lovald, Ph.D., lead researcher and senior associate at Exponent, Inc., and colleagues set out to compare the outcomes of two different groups: those who underwent total knee replacement surgery and those who did not.

The researchers were interested in differences in Medicare payments for arthritis care, risk of death, and new diagnoses of heart failure, diabetes, and depression.

Patients who went through knee replacement surgery had half the risk of death than that of those who did not undergo surgery. Knee replacement patients also had a lower risk of congestive heart failure.

The risks of death and heart failure for surgery patients remained lower when measured at three, five, and seven years after surgery.

Diabetes rates were the same for both groups in the study.

In the first three years after knee replacement surgery, patients had higher levels of depression than those who did not undergo surgery. By five and seven years, though, there was no difference in rates of depression.

At the end of seven years, non-surgery patients payed an average total of $63,940 in Medicare payments for all treatments. Surgery patients payed an average of $83,783, making for a $19,843 difference in cost. However, these Medicare costs did not include prescription drugs, which are supposedly much higher in those who did not undergo surgery.

Patients who underwent surgery had "improved survivorship and reduced risk for cardiovascular conditions," says Dr. Lovald. "More specifically, total knee replacement in osteoarthritis patients may reduce patient mortality by half."

"There are few health care investments that are so cost effective," he concludes.

These findings were presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. As such, the results have yet to be peer-reviewed. 

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Last Updated:
March 9, 2012