Purpose: The key factors underscoring safe and early return to work after hip (THA) or knee (TKA) arthroplasty are poorly defined. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of patient-reported variables upon time taken to return to work after THA or TKA in a working population.
Methods: Questionnaires asking about employment history, education, general health and experiences of returning to work after THA and TKA were administered by post and at outpatients' clinic.
Results: One hundred and two from 272 eligible patients, of whom 52 had undergone THA and 50 TKA, were recruited sequentially. In total, 83 patients were employed pre-operatively and 80 returned to work at median 12 (2-64) weeks. Those in more manual occupations (p = 0.001) without pre-operative sick leave due to their hip or knee arthritis (p = 0.016) and a higher level of qualification (p = 0.041) returned to employment significantly quicker than the rest of the cohort. THA patients report a greater improvement in terms of performance at work (63 vs 44 %, p = 0.007) and job prospects (50 vs 36 %, p = 0.046) as compared with patients after TKA.
Conclusions: Patients with pre-operative sick leave, basic or no qualifications and more physically demanding occupations take longer to return to work. Operating patients before their arthritis forces them to become unemployed would improve their chances to return to work. Hip arthroplasty patients have a greater perceived benefit in terms of performance at work and job prospect. A more tailored return to work time predictions to allow a faster return to work and avoid frustration.
Level of evidence: IV.
Keywords: Joint arthroplasty; Predictive factors; Return to work.