One in 10 people in the United Kingdom will need a total knee replacement (TKR) during their lifetime. Access to this life-changing operation has recently been restricted based on body mass index (BMI) due to belief that high BMI may lead to poorer outcomes. We investigated the associations between BMI and revision surgery, mortality, and pain/function using what we believe to be the world’s largest joint replacement registry.
Methods and findings
We analysed 493,710 TKRs in the National Joint Registry (NJR) for England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man from 2005 to 2016 to investigate 90-day mortality and 10-year cumulative revision. Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES) and Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) databases were linked to the NJR to investigate change in Oxford Knee Score (OKS) 6 months postoperatively.
After adjustment for age, sex, American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA) grade, indication for operation, year of primary TKR, and fixation type, patients with high BMI were more likely to undergo revision surgery within 10 years compared to those with “normal” BMI (obese class II hazard ratio (HR) 1.21, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.32 (p < 0.001) and obese class III HR 1.13, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.26 (p = 0.026)). All BMI classes had revision estimates within the recognised 10-year benchmark of 5%. Overweight and obese class I patients had lower mortality than patients with “normal” BMI (HR 0.76, 95% CI: 0.65, 0.90 (p = 0.001) and HR 0.69, 95% CI: 0.58, 0.82 (p < 0.001)). All BMI categories saw absolute increases in OKS after 6 months (range 18–20 points). The relative improvement in OKS was lower in overweight and obese patients than those with “normal” BMI, but the difference was below the minimal detectable change (MDC; 4 points). The main limitations were missing BMI particularly in the early years of data collection and a potential selection bias effect of surgeons selecting the fitter patients with raised BMI for surgery.
Given revision estimates in all BMI groups below the recognised threshold, no evidence of increased mortality, and difference in change in OKS below the MDC, this large national registry shows no evidence of poorer outcomes in patients with high BMI. This study does not support rationing of TKR based on increased BMI.