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Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age

FRIDAY, June 27 -- Total hip replacements are beneficial and economical for seniors with osteoarthritis, regardless of their age, say researchers at Duke University Medical Center.

Their study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found those who had the surgery were twice as likely as those who didn't to gain mobility and the ability to take care of one's self.

"We found that total hip arthroplasty improves everyday life for patients and is as beneficial to people in their 80s or 90s as it is for someone in their 60s," Linda George, associate director of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging, said in a prepared statement. "While the number of surgeries conducted in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the last decade, fewer than 25 percent of patients who could benefit from the procedure elect to receive it."

Also, the surgery saves the health-care system, because the average $4,000 to $6,000 reimbursement for the procedure costs far less than the long-term expenses of health care for the disabled. Health economists estimate a $50,000 a year savings associated with a disability-free life.

The study is based on data from 131 patients who received total hip replacement compared to data from 257 patients who did not even know they had osteoarthritis. The patients were interviewed three times each year for four years.

Osteoarthritis of the hip is a progressive type of arthritis that affects about 10 million Americans. Associated with aging and obesity, it causes pain, decreased mobility and increased risk of falls and fractures. Hip replacements are performed when medications and physical therapy fail.

As total hip replacement is an invasive treatment with a long rehabilitation period, some physicians don't like to offer the option to patients older than 85, George said, and that is also why some older patients are reluctant to choose it when it is presented.

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Posted: June 2008