Healthcare has been less informed about quality-of-life measures associated with knee replacement surgery for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cases compared to osteoarthritis (OA). An expanded set of measures applied in a new study reveals whether benefits are as robust as they had been believed, based on available literature.

Among the factors that make it difficult to know how well a knee replacement has performed for the patient is that when a knee is surgically replaced as few as one or two measures typically are made, according to Kaleb Michaud, PhD, associate professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) Division of Rheumatology and Immunology.

In the study completed by Michaud and a team of researchers, “a lot” of measures were taken over a longer period of time. Michaud is senior author of the July 20 article published in Arthritis & Rheumatology that featured the study.

Using what is described by the UNMC release as the largest arthritis patient-report study in the United States — the National Data Bank for Rheumatic Diseases — Michaud and his collaborators expanded the number of measurements collected from patients and studied responses of 834 RA patients and 315 OA patients who had their first total knee replacement surgery between 1999 and 2012.

The research gather by Michaud and his research team demonstrated what is described as “a powerful and positive impact, on average,” for RA patients who have knee replacement surgery.

Michaud says based on analysis, total knee replacement can improve the quality of life in RA patients. However, ultimately the arthritis usually returns.

“A new knee can give OA patients 10 to 20 years of painless use whereas RA continues affecting the joint soon afterward,” he said. “It’s an important and effective treatment, but patients with RA shouldn’t expect the same, often dramatic results experienced by their OA counterparts. You’ve gotten rid of a knee plagued by arthritis, not the arthritis itself. Still, it’s an important option that can dramatically improve the patient’s quality of life.”

[Source: University of Nebraska Medical Center]