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New Knees and Hips—They're Worth the Hassle

Recovery from knee or hip replacement can be difficult and long, but older patients do get significant relief from the pain and debility of osteoarthritis.

Recovery from knee or hip replacement can be difficult and long, but in the end older patients get significant relief from the pain and debility of osteoarthritis, confirms a study by doctors at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The study, published July 14 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed 174 patients age 65 and older with severe osteoarthritis. On average they scored 56 on a commonly used 100-point scale of osteoarthritis symptoms; those who had surgery to replace a knee or hip enjoyed a substantial, 24-point drop on the scale a year later.

The rewards were hard-won. Nearly 40 percent reported pain more than four weeks after the procedure, and just half the patients were walking independently in fewer than 12 days. The median time for regaining the ability to perform household chores was 49 days.

The detailed findings on recovery are “exactly the kind of information people are longing for,” says Gillian Hawker, M.D., an osteoarthritis researcher at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto. Joint replacement is an effective treatment that’s underused by older people, especially women, in part because they “can’t fathom how they are going to manage postoperatively,” she says.

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