The Impact of Osteoarthritis of the Knee

These articles are for general information only and are not medical advice. Full Disclaimer. All articles compliments of the AAOS.

Osteoarthritis of the knee (OA Knee) is a leading cause of physical disability. Generally, adults who have OA Knee report having some pain, stiffness or swelling in the knee joint on most days. OA Knee, along with osteoarthritis of the hip, has a major effect on a person’s ability to walk and climb stairs. Here are some frequently asked questions about OA Knee and its effect on a person’s life.


Who is affected by OA Knee?

In 2001, more than 13.5 million American adults reported having knee joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Among those with OA Knee, almost half are older than 65 years of age. Among those in the United States who say they have OA Knee, 88 percent are white and 9 percent are African-Americans.


How many visits did people make to a doctor’s office for OA Knee?

In 2001, people with OA Knee made more than 5.5 million visits to physicians’ offices and more than 271,000 outpatient visits for a variety of reasons.


How many hospitalizations are there for OA Knee?

There were between 400,000 and 458,000 inpatient hospital stays for individuals with OA Knee in 1999 (counting all hospital visits for all reasons).

  • The average length of stay for these patients was almost five days.
  • The average charge per hospital stay was $23,746.
  • About one in five OA Knee patients, regardless of the reason for their hospitalization, went to a skilled nursing facility or nursing home after being released from the hospital.
  • In 1999, about 25 percent of all adults with OA Knee had some type of surgery. The procedure most frequently performed for patients with OA Knee is a total knee joint replacement.


What impact does OA Knee have on a person’s physical and mental well-being?

  • More than 40 percent of people with OA Knee rate their health as “poor” or “fair.”
  • Almost 28 percent expect that it is “definitely” or “mostly” true that their health will get worse.
  • When adults with OA Knee were asked how they felt all or most of the time during the previous month, about 13 percent reported “everything is an effort.”
  • In general, people with OA Knee report a higher degree of emotional distress than adults without arthritis or other health limitations.


What impact does OA Knee have on daily living activities?

  • In 1999, about 50 percent of adults with OA Knee were “unable” or had “much difficulty” crouching, stooping or kneeling.
  • More than 30 percent of adults with OA Knee were “unable” or had “much difficulty” in walking a quarter of a mile; more than one-fourth were unable to take 10 steps without resting.
  • More than 25 percent were “unable” or had “much difficulty” in lifting or carrying 10 pounds.
  • In contrast, less than 1 percent of adults without OA Knee had difficulties in these areas.


What impact does OA Knee have on work attendance?

In 1999, adults with OA Knee reported that they missed an average of more than 13 days of work for health reasons in the previous year. They also spent an average of almost 18 days in bed because of health reasons. People without OA knee, however, missed only about three days of work and spent one-and-a-half days in bed for health reasons during the year.

This information is based on the “Improving Musculoskeletal Care in America” Project of the Council on Research, Evidence-based Practice Committee, and Department of Research and Scientific Affairs, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The material presented is for educational purposes only and is not intended to present the only, or necessarily best, method or procedure for the medical situations discussed. The entire report is available online, using the link shown below.

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