(Reuters Health)—Black people with knee osteoarthritis may have a worse quality of life than white patients in part because they’re less likely to be offered knee replacement surgery or to get the procedure when it’s recommended, a U.S. study suggests.
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Knee replacement surgery has the potential to greatly relieve suffering from severe joint pain that limits mobility and makes it hard for people to complete daily tasks. While surgery can’t return people to the same level of comfort and function they had before they developed arthritis, it can make them feel much less disabled.
Based on the current rates of knee replacement surgery among all black and white men and women in the U.S. who might qualify for the procedure, researchers estimated that blacks are potentially missing out on tens of thousands of years with better quality of life compared to their white counterparts, according to the report online January 24 in Arthritis Care & Research.
“Underutilization of the highly successful surgery leads to drastic losses of quality-adjusted life years among racial minorities,” said senior study author Elena Losina, an orthopedics researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The researchers created a computer model to estimate the effect of knee replacement on quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). In the computer simulation, hypothetical patients were 66 years old, on average, and usually had moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis.
Then, the study team estimated that about 23% of white patients and 12% of black patients would be offered total knee replacement surgery, based on findings from previous research done in the Veterans Affairs healthcare system.
Based on results from a different study, researchers then estimated that 83% of white men and 59% of black men offered surgery decided to get the operation, as did 78% of white women and 64% of black women.
They also calculated probabilities of complications like heart attacks, pneumonia, a blockage in the pulmonary artery or death in the first year after surgery.
The researchers then estimated that based on current rates of knee replacement, there is a QALY gain of 4.8 per 100 black men, 8.2 per 100 black women, 12.6 per 100 white men and 15.7 per 100 white women.
Black men and women gain QALYs as a result of knee replacements, but they could be gaining many more high-quality years if they were offered and accepted surgery at the same rates as white patients and had similar complication rates, the authors conclude.