When dealing with arthritis patients, doctors seldom broach the subject of sex. However, research has shown that physical and emotional intimacy is profoundly affected by joint pain and stiffness. Now a US study has revealed that total knee or hip replacement significantly improves sexual function, self-esteem and well-being in people with severe osteoarthritis (OA), Arthritis Today reported this week.
The research was conducted at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and the results were presented at the Chicago-hosted annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Jose A. Rodriguez, head of the Center for Joint Preservation and Reconstruction at Lenox Hill Hospital, noted that similar studies had focused on post-operative function while his team set out to examine both pre- and post-surgery function. The Lenox Hill researchers also wanted to gain an insight into emotional issues related to the presence of OA.
The study was conducted through questionnaires, with patients ranging in age from 35 to 70. The analysis of the pre-operative questionnaires revealed that 67% of respondents had problems in the bedroom due to joint pain and stiffness, lowered libido or difficulties with positioning. In addition, over 90% said their sexual self-image and well-being had resulted in psychological issues.
The researchers were impressed with the improvement patients reported after knee or hip replacement surgery. For 90% of the sample, this resulted in an overall improvement in sexual function. General well-being increased for 84%, while 55% reported improved sexual self-image. However, 16% said that the surgery had affected intimacy in a negative way, with 10% fearing that engaging in sexual activity would damage the implant.
Dr. Rodriguez commented that the issue of sexuality is not often discussed with patients but it should be.