Obesity is a massive problem (pardon the pun) for many reasons, including for the extra weight it places on the joints. Because of this, it might seem logical for people to lose weight before undergoing joint replacement surgery. However, new scientific evidence indicates that such pre-surgery weight loss may not be necessary.
Through Thick and Thin
This recent study was issued by the by University of Massachusetts Medical School, and was published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. To determine the effects of weight-loss on joint replacement surgery, this group examined roughly 5,000 people who underwent these procedures between May 2011 and March 2013. Out of this figure, nearly 3,000 had total knee replacements, while more than 2,000 were given hip replacements.
Armed with this data, the UMass team reviewed the surgical outcomes of both obese and normal-weight individuals. Surprisingly, they found little difference between the two groups in terms of pain relief and joint functionality.
Risk Vs. Reward
In a news release detailing the report, lead author Wenjun Li stated that “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.”
While acknowledging that obesity and post-surgical infections have been linked by prior research, study co-author Dr. Patricia Franklin noted that “in this paper, we report that obese patients have comparable pain relief and functional outcomes after surgery. Patients should know that these benefits may outweigh risks.”
In the United States, rates of obesity among various demographics have ballooned in recent decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36.5% of US Adults could be classified as obese between the years 2011 and 2014.