Healthier Hearts After Joint Surgery

Osteoarthritis patients who chose joint surgery were less likely to develop heart disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For patients with arthritis, joint replacement surgery could mean more than relief from pain and stiffness. It might protect against heart disease too.

A recent study looked at people with osteoarthritis, some of whom chose to have surgery to replace a joint. The researchers compared heart health outcomes for those who chose surgery to those who did not.

These researchers found that joint surgery significantly reduced arthritis patients' risk of heart problems like heart attack and stroke.

The authors of the study suggested that the surgery may have allowed patients to become more physically active, thus protecting them from heart disease.

"Stay active if you have osteoarthritis."

Bheeshma Ravi, a physician in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery in the University of Toronto, led this study on joint replacement and heart health in osteoarthritis patients.

Osteoarthritis occurs when joints become worn down, leading to pain, stiffness and tenderness. People who have osteoarthritis often are less mobile and physically active.

According to the authors of the study, physical inactivity has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, a condition in which the heart or blood vessels stops working properly.

Many people with severe osteoarthritis choose total joint arthroplasty, a surgery in which a joint, usually the hip or knee, is completely replaced.

This study looked at whether patients who chose to undergo a joint replacement have improved heart health in the years after the operation.

The researchers looked at 1,755 adults who had been diagnosed with osteoarthritis in the knee or hip. Each of the participants was 55 years old or older. 

The patients completed a questionnaire and initial assessment three years before the study started. During those three years, some of the patients chose to undergo total joint replacement. The researchers followed up with the participants for about seven years.

The researchers took note of which patients chose to undergo total joint replacement as well as the rates of serious heart problems, like heart attack, stroke or heart failure.

Of the participants, 173 (9.9 percent) had total joint replacement surgery. To compare heart health outcomes, the researchers matched 153 of these participants with patients who were very similar to them but had not had joint replacement surgery.

The pairs were matched based on the type of arthritis, sex, health status, smoking status and arthritis severity.

A total of 111 of the participants experienced a serious heart problem during the follow-up period. Participants who had undergone a total joint replacement were less likely to have a heart problem than those who did not.

In the seven year follow-up period, those who had chosen surgery were 12.4 percent less likely to experience a major heart health event than those who did not choose surgery.

The researchers suggested that the joint surgery may have protected patients from heart health problems because it made the patients more physically capable.

Additionally, if the patients were experiencing less pain, they may have used less anti-inflammatory drugs that increase heart health risks.

The researchers concluded that effective osteoarthritis treatment could aid in the management and treatment of heart disease risk. They called for more research to confirm this finding.

This study was published in BMJ on October 30.

The research was financially supported by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. The researchers declared no competing interests.

Review Date: 
November 15, 2013
Last Updated:
November 18, 2013