SAN DIEGO – Socially isolated patients with osteoarthritis are nearly three times more likely to experience serious ongoing pain after total hip replacement than patients with good social ties, according to researchers from Hospital for Special Surgery.
“Previous studies have shown that social isolation is a risk factor for poor health outcomes,” Lisa A. Mandl, MD, MPH, from Hospital for Special Surgery, stated. “Studies show that people who don’t have good social ties are at increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, and even dying, compared to those who enjoy the social support of family, friends and the community.”
In the study, social isolation was defined based on whether the patients were married, were members of any community or religious groups or had fewer than six friends or relatives. Mandl and colleagues noted that, although the 132 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and 392 osteoarthritis (OA) patients had similar demographics and proportions of socially isolated patients, the OA patients had a statistically significant association with postoperative decreased WOMAC scores and social isolation, according to the abstract.
Severe social isolation in OA patients was also significantly associated with WOMAC scores less than 60 points and 2.9 times postoperative pain than control patients, but it was not associated with poor postoperative function.
Patients with OA who underwent a total hip replacement had worse pain outcomes than patients with RA. In RA patients, severe social isolation was significantly associated with poor postoperative function, but not postoperative pain.
“We believe further prospective studies should be done to determine whether interventions to evaluate and improve patients’ social ties before surgery could lead to a better pain outcome after hip replacement,” Mandl said. “It could be a way to improve outcomes without medication or other costly interventions. I see no downside to helping patients get the social support they may need to improve their quality of life.”