Can Joint Replacement Improve Heart Health?

285 JointReplaceAs the population ages and surgical techniques improve, joint replacement surgery is becoming more common. More than half a million women are undergoing joint replacement each year. The procedure can reduce pain and help people return to the activities they love—but it turns out that joint replacement may come with an added bonus: a reduced risk of heart disease.


What is Joint Replacement?

Joint replacement surgery is exactly what it sounds like: removing a damaged joint and replacing it with a new, albeit artificial, one. Joint replacement is an elective, rather than an emergency, procedure. Most people who choose to undergo joint replacement have suffered from years of debilitating pain as a result of wear and tear, referred to as joint degeneration. The most common cause of joint degeneration is arthritis, but joints can also be damaged by trauma, autoimmune disorders, and medications.


Joint Replacement and Heart Health

In a study posted online in BMJ, Canadian researchers followed 153 people with moderate to severe osteoarthritis who underwent a knee or hip replacement and 153 people who did not. The groups were matched for severity of arthritis, age, smoking status, diabetes, and other factors.

After seven years of follow-up, the data indicated that those who underwent a knee or hip replacement were 40 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular event compared to their counterparts who did not have surgery. (Cardiovascular events included heart attack, stroke, heart failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, or death from cardiovascular disease.) Even patients who had at least one risk factor for heart disease saw a benefit—when these patients underwent joint replacement, they had a 29 percent reduced risk of a cardiovascular event.

The reasons for the relationship are unclear, but the researchers speculated that debilitating arthritis could limit a person’s ability to exercise, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease. What’s more, joint replacement can reduce pain, inflammation, and even depression—and all of these things are risk factors for cardiac events.


The Bottom Line

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone should undergo joint replacement surgery—but it does indicate that the procedure can have far-reaching implications. Severe osteoarthritis can have a dramatic impact on a person’s life and is not something to be ignored.




Ravi B, Croxford R, Austin PC, et al. The relation between total joint arthroplasty and risk for serious cardiovascular events in patients with moderate-severe osteoarthritis: propensity score matched landmark analysis. BMJ 2013;347:f6187 doi: