Don’t postpone knee-replacement surgery

Research at the University of Delaware indicates that women wait longer to pursue knee-replacement surgery than men do.

By postponing surgery until they can no longer stand the pain, these women may also risk putting their mobility, and quality of life, on hold indefinitely, according to Lynn Snyder-Mackler, Distinguished Alumni Professor in UD’s Department of Physical Therapy and a certified sports physical therapist and athletic trainer.

“Doctors typically tell patients to wait to have knee replacements until they just can’t stand the pain any longer,” Snyder-Mackler said. “Our research shows that’s bad advice–and worse for women than it is for men–because your level of function going into surgery generally dictates your level of function after surgery,” she noted.

Snyder-Mackler led the research team for the study, which was funded by a $1,125,000 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Her collaborators included Stephanie Petterson, who earned her doctorate in physical therapy and was a postdoctoral researcher at UD and is now a senior lecturer at the University of East London, and Drs. Leo Raisis and Alex Bodenstab, orthopedic surgeons at First State Orthopaedics in Newark, Del.

At UD’s Physical Therapy Clinic in McKinly Laboratory, 229 candidates for total knee replacements, including 95 men and 126 women with osteoarthritis, were evaluated and compared to 44 healthy men and women who matched them in gender, age and body-mass index. Each subject took part in a series of standard physical tests such as stair climbing and the distance covered in a six-minute walk.

“The women afflicted with osteoarthritis were at a much more advanced stage than the men with the disease,” Snyder-Mackler said. “The women all had painful end-stage osteoarthritis, where the cushion of cartilage padding the knee bones has completely deteriorated and you basically have bone hitting against bone.”

Why are women waiting so long before pursuing surgery?

Snyder-Mackler says there may be a number of reasons. Perhaps women can bear pain better than men, or a woman’s world increasingly revolves around the home as we age, or it could be that women are just trying to follow doctor’s orders.

The research is one of two UD studies led by Snyder-Mackler and reported in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

Source: University of Delaware, USA



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