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Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2003 Oct;17(5):831-46.

The impact of total joint replacement in rheumatoid arthritis.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Leiden University Medical Centre, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Management of the patient with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) requires a multidisciplinary approach, the role of the surgeon being to improve functional ability for the patient by reconstructing a deteriorated joint by total joint arthroplasty (TJA). An advantage of prosthetic evaluation over pharmacological medication evaluations is that the 'compliance' of the patient with the treatment (i.e. the TJA) is 100%, even at long-term follow-up. However, long-term follow-up of prosthesis evaluation is as difficult as the evaluation of any other intervention. Although the goal of any intervention on an RA patient is to improve functional ability, and thus self-support, of the patient, objective evaluation of the surgical procedure, and of its impact on the patient, can be difficult. The potential chronic course of RA makes evaluation of a specific surgical procedure and its effect on the patient difficult to interpret. The success of the TJA is generally judged on a survivorship analysis at 10 or 15 years in national registries (i.e. >40000 implants); revision surgery is used as an end-point for survival of the TJA. With a mean 90% survival at 10-year follow-up, total hip arthroplasty and total knee arthroplasty may be considered gold-standard TJA procedures for the patient. While revision is the end-point, the course to this end-point starts with progressive micromotion of the prosthesis. The effect of prosthetic changes, and of medication on prosthesis migration, can be measured very accurately by radiostereometry. The latter measures the actual performance of the TJA in the bone. Next to these more procedure-oriented evaluations, patient-oriented evaluations (e.g. quality of life, patient expectations) are of importance in judging the impact of the TJA on the RA patient. These evaluations provide evidence that the pre-operative status of the joint/extremity determines the extent of post-operative functional gain. Thus, postponing TJA for too long will give less functional benefit.

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