Bariatric Surgery and Joint Replacement

As we get older, many adults complain of joint pain. One reason joint pain is so common is that each pound of weight you carry puts about four pounds of pressure on your knees. For this reason, a person who is overweight or obese is likely to have even more joint pain.

This is a frustrating cycle because that pain can make exercise even harder. Joint-replacement surgery is well-recognized as a good tool for joint pain. Many overweight or obese patients have these surgeries, and new research is being done.

Joint pain is a primary topic of research and discussion among orthopedic specialists. According to a recent presentation given at the conference of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, two studies indicate that bariatric surgery before a joint replacement operation may substantially improve outcomes for patients.

Although this new research is specific to joint replacements, previous research exists on the association between weight loss and reduced orthopedic problems. For example, one study indicated that overweight/obese women can reduce their risk of developing osteoarthritis in their knees if they lose weight. That reduction in risk was significant: researchers found more than a 50 percent reduction in risk of knee osteoarthritis for every two BMI points the women lost (Framingham study).

In addition to finding that bariatric surgery can improve the outcomes of joint replacement, researchers for the recent study also discussed that the findings supported that weight-loss surgeries seemed to make financial sense.

The author said: “Our findings indicate that surgical weight loss prior to joint replacement is likely a cost-effective option from a public payer standpoint in order to improve outcomes in obese patients who are candidates for joint replacement. Some health care systems do not include weight loss surgery as a covered benefit, and it is possible that studies such as this will be helpful in re-evaluating whether weight loss surgery may be a reasonable covered benefit.”

He added: “Ideally, a team approach would be used to treat obese patients with hip and knee arthritis in which various health care professionals are in place to help a patient lose weight, improve his or her health and optimize nutrition before joint replacement to maximize its benefits.”

Obesity can lead to longer stays in the hospital, and more surgical risk. So research like this is important across all specialties in terms of understanding concerns about extra weight and how that may affect conditions or treatment.

At Provost Bariatrics, we are happy to answer any questions about how bariatric surgery may work in improving orthopedic conditions. If you are considering joint replacement, or wondering how bariatric surgery may be able to help alleviate joint pain itself, please call us at 254-724-2397.


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