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Posted: July 22, 2008

Elderly Body No Barrier to Knee and Hip Replacement Surgery

Age alone should not be a barrier for the elderly undergoing knee or hip replacement surgery to relieve severe arthritis, and in fact a new study shows those age 75 and older bounce back as well as younger patients.


Instead, researchers found, too many surgery candidates and even some physicians are not aware of the growing body of evidence that the elderly can usually withstand the rigors of surgery and rebound like a younger person.

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According to an article in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston made this determination after examining 174 older patients, with an average age of 75, who were suffering from severe osteoarthritis. Some of those surveyed had already undergone replacement surgery.


"Patients age 75 and older took about the same amount of time to return to regular activities as those age 65 to 74, with most patients requiring assistance with activities such as shopping and household chores for more than a month," the journal article reported.


"None of these (surgical) patients died, 17% had postoperative complications and 38% had pain lasting more than four weeks following surgery," the medical team, headed by Dr. Mary Hamel, added.


Hamel noted that physicians should benefit from the research in their treating even some of the very old, given that the study involved some patients who were well into their 80s. In particular, she said, the value of replacement surgery should receive higher consideration on the aged.


"Joint replacement surgery was not offered as a treatment option for many patients, suggesting that some physicians may not provide elderly patients with the opportunity to choose this effective treatment," the researchers wrote.


"Not surprisingly, patients who were more concerned about the risks of surgery and about a long surgical recovery were less likely to have joint replacements," they noted.


Interestingly, the Boston team found that lower income elderly arthritis sufferers do not often have the surgery, adding that their findings track with other reports that identify the poor with limited access to needed health care.

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