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Joint replacements halved in arthritis patients

Thursday 25th April 2019
A new study has found that the number of joint replacement surgeries for rheumatoid arthritis patients halved between 1997 and 2010.
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Unfortunately, rheumatoid arthritis sometimes requires sufferers to go through joint-replacement surgery. While some have claimed that this procedure has become less necessary in recent years, others aren’t so sure. However, a recent study has looked through over a decade of data to come up with a more concrete answer.

The research, which was presented at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR), found that the number of rheumatoid arthritis patients undergoing joint replacement surgery fell by an incredible 51.9 per cent between 1997 and 2010.

This is especially impressive considering the number of joint replacements in the general population increased by 31.9 per cent during this time period. However, it’s important to note that the overall number of people having this surgery was still significantly lower than it is among people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

One possibility is that this is caused in part by the introduction of biological therapies - in particular biological therapy with tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (TNFi) - which were introduced in the late 1990s. The researchers found some evidence to support this, but stressed that it was likely there were a number of other factors as well.

For example, the number of hip replacements required for patients on TNFi therapy fell during the time period. However, while the biological treatment seems to have helped, it’s also likely that earlier diagnosis and better prescription medications also made a significant difference in this finding.

Professor Robert Landewé, chair of EULAR’s Scientific Programme Committee, said: “We welcome these results demonstrating such a dramatic reduction of joint replacements in RA patients in recent years. It's also very interesting to see data relating specifically to the impact of biological treatments on this outcome given the breadth of progress in the management of RA over the same time period.”

Written by Matthew Horton

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