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Joint replacement surgery lowers cardiovascular risks in osteoarthritis patients

February 2014

OsteoarthritisOsteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than three million Canadians. It occurs when cartilage begins to wear away, and it is a major cause of disability. Previous research has shown that disability from the disease increases mortality, especially from cardiovascular disease.

However, a new study led by Dr. Bheeshma Ravi, a former PhD student of Dr. Gillian Hawker, senior scientist at Women’s College Research Institute, has shown for the first time that osteoarthritis patients who have hip or knee replacement surgery have lower rates of serious cardiovascular events than other patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis. The study was published online in the British Medical Journal.

“We found that patients who had hip or knee replacement surgery reduced their risk of events such as heart attack and stroke by more than 12 per cent,” says Ravi. “Although our findings need to be confirmed in a larger study, these results encourage greater focus on how reducing disability in osteoarthritis patients may help control or prevent other health conditions.”

The team suggests several reasons for the reduced cardiovascular risk. For instance, total joint replacement improves a patient’s physical abilities, such as walking. In addition, the surgery reduces chronic pain, which relieves stress and reduces patients’ use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, both of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. However, further research is necessary to better understand how these factors play a role in improving cardiovascular health after joint replacement surgery.

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