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New study finds blacks still lag in obtaining total knee replacements for arthritis

ATLANTA, Feb. 19, 2009 A new study released today found blacks remain less likely than whites to undergo total knee replacement, an important intervention for reducing pain and improving physical function among those with disabling knee osteoarthritis. The study also found total knee replacements are increasing substantially in both populations. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the research underscores the need for healthcare providers and people of all races to take proactive measures in preventing and managing the disease.

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used Medicare claims data from 2000 to 2006 to estimate the national and state-specific total knee replacements for blacks and whites among U.S. adults aged 65 and older.

The study found that among Medicare enrollees, the prevalence of total knee replacements increased by 58 percent overall. Despite the substantial increase in the rates of total knee replacements for both populations, total knee replacements among blacks was 37 percent lower than for whites in 2000, and remained virtually unchanged in 2006. In addition, the rates for total knee replacements were lowest among black men and highest among white women.

The Importance of Taking Action

According to the Arthritis Foundation, most Americans are unaware of the seriousness of arthritis and the impact it can have on their lives. Arthritis is the nation's most common cause of disability and costs the U.S. economy more than $128 billion annually. Knee osteoarthritis, the most frequent form of lower extremity arthritis, contributes to 418,000 knee replacement procedures annually and in 2006 accounted for 496,000 hospital discharges and $19 billion in hospital costs.

"Nearly one in two adults may develop knee osteoarthritis over their lifetime, with an equal risk among blacks and whites," said Patience White, MD, MA, chief public health officer for the Arthritis Foundation. "There are steps Americans can take now to prevent increasing disability from knee osteoarthritis, and if surgery becomes necessary, to better prepare themselves."

Tips for Reducing Knee Pain:

To reduce the pain and disability of arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation recommends the following:

  • Understand the myth about physical activity and arthritis. Many people think that physical activity can worsen arthritis pain. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Done appropriately, physical activity can help decrease symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. In addition, physical activity is an important component of weight control and helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints. For joint-safe exercise programs, try the Arthritis Foundation's Life Improvement Series land or water exercise programs offered at more than 1,700 locations nationwide.

  • Control weight. For those already living with symptoms, losing 15 pounds can cut knee pain in half. Maintaining a healthy weight also can lower a person's risk of osteoarthritis. In fact, one study showed that women who lost as little as 11 pounds halved their risk of developing knee osteoarthritis and its accompanying joint pain.

  • Discover techniques to manage your arthritis. Participate in the Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program, a self-management course that teaches people with arthritis how to manage the pain and challenges that arthritis imposes. The course has been shown to lead to a 40 percent reduction in pain.

  • Learn more. Contact your local Arthritis Foundation office or visit to learn more about programs offered in your area and to order free educational materials, including literature on arthritis in African Americans. For more actions you can take, visit take control of osteoarthritis ( to get started.


Contact: Carol Galbreath
Arthritis Foundation

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