AAOS logoThe common complaints of elderly suffering from severe osteoarthritis (worn cartilage) claim to be impaired balance and an increased tendency to fall. A new study suggests total knee replacement (TKR) to successfully relieve pain. Improving function in patients with advanced knee arthritis, it also seems to advance dynamic balance among the elderly.

Multiple benefits to surgery were allegedly reported for patients who had been suffering from advanced osteoarthritis. The main aim of the study was the determination of whether TKR had any effects on balance measures. The purpose was to ascertain its effects in correlation with functional balance and quality of life.

Experts deem this especially important as falls are claimed to be leading cause of injury for senior adults in the U.S. with hip fractures resulting from the falls being lethal to them.

“Balance is critical to the elderly, especially those with knee problems. This study reinforced our hypothesis about how an osteoarthritic patient’s function is compromised not only due to pain, but also by balance,” explained Leonid Kandel, MD, study author and orthopaedic surgeon, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel.

Around 63 patients with a mean age of 73 and who had TKRs were analyzed as part of the study. After one year, they participated in follow-up evaluations. A new computerized system called the Balance Master enabled the study to measure accurately static and dynamic balance.

The results of the study included a considerable improvement in dynamic balance one year after surgery. Also there was a significant progress in balance-determined motor tests of the participants. Moreover, a strong statistical correlation between the balance and the Oxford Knee Score functional questionnaire and the quality of life questionnaire SF-36 was also observed.

Around a year after surgery, the study revealed a stronger correlation between patients’ improved balance and their ability to walk and perform daily activities as against the correlation between their decreased pain and ability to walk and conduct daily activities.

“We are learning that pain relief may not be the only benefit that improves function after knee replacement,” explained Dr. Kandel. “This improved balance is a significant quality-of-life change in elderly patients.”

Experts suggest elderly individuals who consider knee replacement to discuss the rehabilitation process with their orthopaedic surgeon. They should apparently also talk abut the ways in which they can enhance their balance after surgery.

The study was presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).