February 18, 2011

Obesity Worsens Knee Arthritis

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- More than 14 million visits were made to physicians' offices in 2008 by patients with knee problems; could obesity be the underlying factor?

One new study found that while weight loss via bariatric surgery may improve knee pain in obese patients with knee osteoarthritis, there may be permanent damage to the knee from being morbidly obese.

"For a long time people felt there was nothing they could do to mitigate the debilitating effects of knee arthritis, but now we know that surgically-assisted weight loss is a way that folks can help themselves," Michael S. Sridhar, MD, co-investigator and resident at Emory University, was quoted as saying. "However, there is probably some element of irreparable damage from being morbidly obese that may constrain the improvement in knee pain despite significant weight loss. Looking at the actual joint surfaces with advanced imaging to assess damage is the exciting next step in studying the evolution of knee arthritis in the obese population."

In addition, two new studies examine whether obesity contributes to complications after hip and knee replacement surgery. The first study looked at "super obese" (BMI over 45) patients and found that overall complications were significantly higher in these people. Among "super obese" patients, each 5-unit increase in BMI over 45 was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of having in-hospital and post-operative outpatient's complications or readmissions.

The second study analyzed complication rates for morbidly obese patients (BMI greater than 40) after total joint replacement (TJR). The study found that morbid obesity contributes to a significantly higher incidence of complications such as redness, swelling, bacterial infections, respiratory disorders, neurological and gastrointestinal complications and cardiac arrhythmias following total hip and knee replacements.

Another new study released today analyzed the effects of isolated weight loss via bariatric surgery on knee osteoarthritis. The study found that isolated weight loss following bariatric surgery resulted in significant improvements in knee pain, stiffness and function.

"Other studies have looked at the effect that a combination of weight loss, diet and exercise had on knee arthritis, but it was difficult to say which of these factors contributed the most to reducing knee pain," Christopher Edwards, co-investigator and a fourth year medical student at the Penn State College of Medicine, was quoted as saying. "Our study should send a message to patients, health care providers, and payers that weight loss is an important consideration in the treatment of knee arthritis."

SOURCE: 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) held in San Diego, California from February 15-19, 2011