Study: new knee joints more frequent in affluent regions

In wealthier regions of Germany, significantly more patients receive an artificial knee joint than elsewhere.

For example, first-time implantations are much more common in Bavaria than for patients in the northeast of the country, according to the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Health Fact Check, published Thursday.

For the current investigation the German society for orthopedics and orthopedic surgery had evaluated anonymizated data of the AOK. According to the study, 130 of every 100,000 people in Germany receive a new knee joint every year.

The regional divide is illustrated by the figures for the nationwide leader and the bottom: in 2011, for example, 214 per 100,000 inhabitants in the Bavarian district of Neustadt an der Aisch-Bad Windsheim received an artificial knee joint. The proportion was thus around three times as high as in Frankfurt (Oder) in Brandenburg, where there are only 73 knee replacement operations per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to the study, the frequency of knee replacement surgeries is higher in Bavaria, Hesse, Thuringia and parts of Lower Saxony than in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Berlin and Brandenburg. There is an even greater difference in the frequency of follow-up interventions on the operated knee, for example due to renewed pain or for a change of prosthesis. These operations occur five times more often in some counties than in others.

There is also an imbalance along the border between Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg that can hardly be explained by health facts: "In all Bavarian counties directly on the border, proportionately more patients receive artificial knee joints than in the neighboring counties of Baden-Wurttemberg," it said.

"In affluent areas, knee surgery is more common, although people in such regions tend to suffer less frequently from osteoarthritis," said Stefan Etgeton, a health expert at the Foundation. It is obvious that non-medical factors influence the supply, he said. dpa

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