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Knee replacement patients often gain weight, study says

December 10, 2012

Knee replacement surgery has helped many older adults reduce the impact of osteoarthritis, but the results of a new study highlight how important it is for them to remain active during the recovery process. Researchers found that approximately 30 percent of knee replacement patients gain at least 5 percent of their body weight during the five years after the procedure, according to Reuters.

Drawing on the medical records of 917 patients from the Mayo Clinic, researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) noticed a distinct correlation between knee replacement and weight gain. For instance, only about 20 percent of patients who did not have the surgery gained the same amount of weight over the same time period.

Experts say the main reason for the relationship is likely that patients had become used to a more sedentary lifestyle before surgery because of the pain from arthritis. As such, it's important for those in the healthcare industry to encourage patients to make physical therapy a significant part of the recovery process.

"We need to encourage patients to take advantage of their ability to function better and get them to take on a more active lifestyle," physical therapy professor Joseph Zeni told Reuters.

Knee replacement surgery will likely become a regular part of senior living for many older adults. Research published earlier this year found that the number of knee surgeries performed on seniors has increased considerably over the last two decades. In fact, in 2010 there were approximately 244,000 first-time replacements performed on Medicare patients, a roughly 162 percent increase from 1991, CBS News reports.

An active lifestyle is an important part of healthy aging, and the results of the study from VCU highlight just how true that is. Whether for a knee replacement patient or not, exercise offers benefits ranging from reducing the risk of falls to staving off cognitive decline.