Background: Obesity has been associated with lower function and more pain before and after total hip or knee replacement (THR or TKR). We examined the changes between preoperative and postoperative function and pain in a large representative U.S. cohort to determine if there was a relationship to obesity status.
Methods: Preoperative and 6-month postoperative data on function (Short Form-36 Physical Component Summary [PCS] score), joint pain (Hip disability and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score and Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score), and body mass index (BMI) were collected from a national sample of 2,040 patients who had undergone THR and 2,964 who had undergone TKR from May 2011 to March 2013. Preoperative and postoperative function and pain were evaluated according to BMI status, defined as under or of normal weight, overweight, obese, severely obese, or morbidly obese.
Results: Patients undergoing THR were an average of 65 years of age; 59% were women, 94% were white, and 14% were severely or morbidly obese. A greater obesity level was associated with a lower (worse) PCS score at baseline and 6 months postoperatively. Severely and morbidly obese patients had less postoperative functional gain than the other BMI groups. A greater obesity level was associated with more pain at baseline but greater postoperative pain relief, so the average postoperative pain scores did not differ significantly according to BMI status. Patients undergoing TKR had an average age of 69 years; 61% were women, 93% were white, and 25% were severely or morbidly obese. A greater obesity level was associated with a lower PCS score at baseline and 6 months. The postoperative gain in PCS score did not differ by BMI level. A greater obesity level was associated with worse pain at baseline but greater pain relief at 6 months, so the average pain scores at 6 month were similar across the BMI levels.
Conclusions: Six months after total joint replacement (TJR), severely or morbidly obese patients reported excellent pain relief and substantial functional gain that was similar to the findings in other patients. While obesity is associated with a greater risk of early complications, obesity in itself should not be a deterrent to undergoing TJR to relieve symptoms.
Level of evidence: Therapeutic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.