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Study links osteoporosis drug to longer performance of artificial joints

Dec. 19, 2011

By Patricia Nicholson

Joint replacement patients who take bisphosphonates – medications used to treat osteoporosis – may get longer use out of their hip or knee implants than other patients. A new study found that artificial hip and knee implants lasted almost twice as long in patients on bisphosphonates, and these patients were less likely to need a second surgery on the same joint.

Osteoarthritis is among the most common causes of chronic pain, and it accounts for more than 90 per cent of hip and knee replacement operations. According to background information in the study, about three per cent of hip replacements and 3.6 per cent of knee replacements require further surgery within five years. These “revision” surgeries tend to have poorer results than primary joint replacements, and are also more expensive to perform.  

Researchers at the University of Oxford wanted to investigate factors that may lower the likelihood of these second surgeries. The most common reason for revision surgery is loosening of the joint implant, which is caused by bone loss in the areas that support the implant. Because bisphosphonates help prevent bone loss, the researchers looked at whether patients who were taking bisphosphonates were less likely to need a second surgery.

They looked at almost 42,000 patients ages 40 and over who had hip or knee replacement surgery in the U.K. from 1986 to 2006. They found that the 1,912 people who used bisphosphonates had significantly lower rates of revision surgery than those who didn’t. In those who did need a second surgery, the time between the first and second surgery was almost twice as long in bisphosphonate users compared to other patients.

The results need to be confirmed by further studies, but they suggest that bisphosphonates may be linked to longer-lasting hip and knee joint implants. The study was published in BMJ on Dec. 6, 2011.


Read more on osteoporosis:

Bone mineral density basics

Bone up on bone health: new guidelines from Osteoporosis Canada

Taking a fresh look at osteoarthritis

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital