Hip replacement can make it easier for people with severe arthritis pain to move around, but maybe it can help them live longer too. A study presented at this week’s 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in Chicago examined 43,000 patients who had received total hip replacement (THR) surgery and discovered that they had a 52 percent lower risk of death than patients who didn’t get the surgery.
It makes intuitive sense that helping people move without pain would help them exercise and thus live longer, but this study actually crunches the numbers. The lead author is Scott Lovald, who works for scientific consulting firm Exponent Inc. He has previously looked at the cost effectiveness of knee replacement.
The researchers tracked all 43,000 patients for at least one year and were able to follow 24,000 patients for seven years. After controlling for factors like age, sex, race, and other disease conditions, they found that people who received the hip replacement had a lower risk of heart disease and depression three years after the surgery.
The costs to Medicare over seven years was $89,154 for the patients who received THR and $82,788 for those who didn’t — which means that over that period of time, the surgical patients only cost $6,366 more for a significantly better result. Lovald said that if the costs of prescription pain medications had been included, the real extra cost of getting the surgery may be much smaller, since patients who don’t get the surgery presumably have a greater need to continue taking strong prescription drugs.
The good news that hip replacements can work very well has been overshadowed by a well-publicized lawsuit earlier this year against Johnson and Johnson. Earlier this month, a Los Angeles jury ordered the company to pay $8.3 million in damages to one of the victims of the defective metal-on-metal hip implants. These particular devices were recalled in 2010.
It can be tough for doctors and patients to reach a decision to have major surgery. But the new study suggests that total hip replacement can have very real benefits for the right patients.
[hip replacement X-ray image courtesy National Institutes of Health]
[women running marathon photo courtesy Peter van der Sluijs and Wikipedia Commons]