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Hip and knee replacements may be bad for the heart

Researchers in Boston have found that osteoarthritis patients who had total knee or hip joint replacement surgery were at increased risk of heart attack in the early post-operative period.

While that risk subsided, a heightened risk of for venous thromboembolism – a blood clot in veins and lungs – remained years after the procedure.

“Our findings provide the first general population-based evidence that osteoarthritis patients who have total knee or total hip replacement surgery are at increased risk of heart attack in the immediate postoperative period,” concludes lead author Dr. Yuqing Zhang.

“The long-term risk of heart attack was insignificant, but risk of blood clots in the lung remained for years after surgery to replace a hip or knee damaged by osteoarthritis.”

The study included 13,849 patients who underwent total knee replacement surgery and 13,849 matched controls who did not have surgery.

Patients were 50 years of age or older and diagnosed with knee or hip osteoarthritis between January 2000 and December 2012.

Findings indicate that 306 patients in the arthroplasty group and 286 in the non-surgical group developed myocardial infarction during the follow-up period. Risk of heart attack was significantly higher during the first postoperative month in those who had knee replacement surgery compared to those in the non-surgical group, and gradually declined over time. Venous thromboembolism was a significant risk during the first month and over time for those having total knee or total hip arthroplasty.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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