While obesity is associated with a greater risk of postoperative complications, obesity in itself should not be a deterrent to undergoing total joint replacement (TJR) to relieve symptoms, conclude the authors of a new study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery .
The study examined changes between preoperative and postoperative function and pain in more than 5,000 patients undergoing TJR to determine if there was an association with obesity status. A greater obesity level was associated with worse pain at baseline but greater postoperative pain relief. Six months after surgery, severely or morbidly obese patients reported excellent pain relief and substantial functional gain that was similar to the findings in other patients.
“This surprised us a little bit. Past analysis showed that obesity is associated with outcomes to some degree, but here we see the magnitude is so small it won’t make much difference, and severely obese patients can benefit a lot from the surgery,” said lead author, Dr. Wenjun Li. “Patients who can lose weight should, but we acknowledge many people can’t, or it will take a long time during which their joints will worsen. If they can get the surgery earlier, once function is restored they can better address obesity.”