Early Risk Factors for Hip Replacement

Babies who are born early or with low birth weight (LBW) are at higher risk later in life for hip replacement surgery due to osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new report from Australia.

The researchers, who were from the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash University in Melbourne, did a systematic search of literature databases covering publications from January 1947 to August 2017. They identified five studies that specifically investigated the relationship between premature birth, LBW, and hip replacement surgery. What they found, they said, was “modest evidence for a cause-effect relationship.” For example, in Australia in 2017 there were 30,477 hip replacement operations for hip OA. Of the patients who had the surgery, 17.3 percent had been born with LBW and 19.0 percent had been premature babies. The researchers calculated that over 5,000 hip replacements were attributable to LBW and nearly 6,000 were attributable to premature birth. Given the high cost of hip replacement surgery, this represented a significant public health expenditure.

The researchers acknowledged that there were not very many available research studies, making additional research necessary. In the meantime, they suggested there might be ways to help reduce the burden of hip OA. Modifying the hip position of babies through “postural support” was one; using double diapers was another. They also conjectured that the practice of swaddling might be discouraged in LBW and premature babies because improper swaddling might predispose the infants to hip dysplasia (a shallow hip socket).

Want to learn more about hip replacement? Read “Long-Term Exercise After Hip or Knee Replacement.”

Joseph Gustaitis is a freelance writer and editor based in the Chicago area.

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