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From the Current Issue

New Research:
Joint Replacement Surgery Improves Function, But Gradually

Many studies have shown that joint replacement surgery can lead to dramatic improvements in quality of life, including pain relief and better physical function. But a new study demonstrates that although surgery is quick to relieve pain, patients’ physical function gets worse before it gets better.

The study included 222 patients over age 50 who underwent primary total knee or hip replacement as treatment for osteoarthritis. The subjects were evaluated prior to surgery, then at 1, 6, and 12 months after surgery.

One month after surgery, pain had improved, but physical function was worse than it had been before the surgery. By the three-month point, however, both pain and physical function were better than before the surgery. Pain continued to improve until the six-month point, while physical function continued to improve through all 12 months. Based on these findings, patients should recognize that they may need more than a month to recuperate from surgery.

The study also found that patients with more social support—either a spouse or a live-in partner—experienced better outcomes than people with less social support. The study authors theorized that spouses and other family members provide assistance during recuperation and help motivate the person during rehabilitation.

Arthritis & Rheumatism
(Arthritis Care & Research)
Volume 51, page 100
February 15, 2004



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The arthritis White Paper from The Johns Hopkins White Papers series is an annual, in-depth report written by Hopkins physicians.



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