At least one in 11 Australians has osteoarthritis, while the number of people needing joint replacements is growing due to an aging population and obesity, among other factors.
However, new Australian research is investigating ways to prevent disabling osteoarthritis of the knee and hip through early genetic testing.
Susan Geale, 59, needed a total knee replacement after suffering excruciating pain.
“My quality of life was zero, I couldn’t walk from the front door to the mailbox,” Geale said.
Mrs. Geale no longer needs pain medication, but she has trouble walking.
“I can’t walk much,” he told 9News.
“Twenty to 30 per cent of people who have knee replacements are not happy with the result,” said Flavia Cicuttini, a professor at Monash University.
Professor Cicuttini said there must be methods to “delay surgery until absolutely necessary”.
This has prompted the most recent research in the development of a “risk score” based on an individual’s genetic data to predict their likelihood of needing joint replacement surgery for osteoarthritis.
DNA samples from thousands of older participants involved in a long-term study on aspirin and aging were analyzed.
After isolating specific genetic variants, the research found that those with high-risk scores had a 44 percent increased risk of having a knee replacement or an 88 percent increased risk of needing a new hip, compared with those with lower scores.
“These risk scores that we developed were independent of age, gender and obesity,” Professor Cicuttini said.
The researchers said that having access to genetic risk information before symptoms appear has the potential to improve adherence to preventive strategies.
Ms Geale said this risk assessment could have changed her life.
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“I could have adjusted my lifestyle, we all know habits, healthy habits,” Geale said.