Research Suggests Best Time for Joint Replacement Surgery

Some doctors and patients may hold off on joint replacement surgery until the pain becomes unbearable and mobility is severely limited.

But data from FORCE-TJR—a joint replacement database administered by David Ayers, MD and Patricia Franklin, MD at UMass Medical School–now shows that there is an ideal time for patients to get the most out of hip or knee replacement surgery. A nationally recognized physical composite score for individuals with no joint pain or functional limitations is 50. A study, based on 17,000 patients in the FORCE-TJR database reveals that patient scores improve an average of 12 points after total joint replacement surgery. But that data also suggest that if a patient’s function is severely impaired before surgery (a score of 25 or lower), that patient may not achieve the same amount of improvement as a patient who had surgery at the ideal time (determined in this study to be a score of 32).

“On average, TJR patients can achieve scores of 44 or greater and approach the function of non-arthritic patients after surgery. But, 20 percent of patients who wait until their score is 25 or lower generally don’t get the full 12 points of improvement. In fact, 40 percent of those who wait this long only achieve post-surgery function at the arthritis level of 32,” said Dr. Franklin.

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