However, the findings published in the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) journal, Arthritis Care & Research, also indicate that low birth weight and pre-term babies were not at greater risk of knee arthroplasty due to osteoarthritis as adults.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis range from mild to severe and include pain, stiffness, and swelling of joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of disability, with medical evidence reporting osteoarthritis of the knees and hips totalling 71 million years lived with disability (2010)—a worldwide increase of 64 per cent since 1990.
Lead investigator, Professor Flavia Cicuttini in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine said: “Currently there are no disease-modifying medications available to treat osteoarthritis, which makes understanding the risk factors associated with osteoarthritis so important for improving prevention of this disabling disease.”
Previous research found that low birth weight and preterm birth have been linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and reduced bone mass in adulthood. With understanding of these adverse outcomes, the research team set out to investigate if low birth weight and preterm birth also played a role in increase risk of joint replacement surgery as adults.
The present study used data from 3,604 participants of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study who 40 years-of-age or older at the time data of joint replacement surgeries were collected. Participants provided information about their weight at birth and if they were prematurely delivered. The participants’ records were then linked to knee and hip replacements due to osteoarthritis (2002-2011) data from the Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry.
Of the participants, 116 had knee replacement surgery and 75 underwent hip arthroplasty for osteoarthritis. Low birth weight and preterm birth were linked to increase incidence of hip arthroplasty independent of age, sex, body mass index (BMI), education level, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and physical activity. Researchers found no significant association between low birth weight or preterm birth and knee replacement surgery.
“Our findings suggest that individuals born prematurely or with low birth weight are more likely to need hip replacement surgery for osteoarthritis in adulthood,” Professor Cicuttini said.
“While further investigation is needed to confirm these findings, identifying those at greatest risk for hip osteoarthritis and providing early interventions may help reduce the incidence of this debilitating disease.”