Early access to hip replacement is cost-effective and provides significant benefits for patients' quality of life, a study has shown.
Ruben Mujica-Mota, from the University of Exeter Medical School, carried out research comparing early access and delayed hip replacement surgery in Italy on behalf of the European Health Technology Institute for Socio-Economic Research (EHTI).
His findings, which are now published in the journal Value in Health, demonstrate both the cost-effectiveness of early hip replacement, as well as the benefits for patients.
The expert says that delaying hip replacement surgery does not cut costs for health services and denies patients the opportunity to lead an active and healthy life while awaiting surgery.
He claims that even young adults do not benefit from postponing treatment - an approach that is sometimes taken to reduce the risk of revision surgery during their lifetime.
Ruben Mujica-Mota, senior lecturer in Health Economics at the University of Exeter, concluded: "This research clearly suggests that the cost savings to national health systems in Europe brought about by delaying total hip replacement may not justify the large quality of life losses to patients."
Yves Verboven, executive director of the EHTI, said that delaying hip replacement among patients with severe osteoarthritis has "limited value in reducing the total cost of treatment".
He added: "On the contrary, a strategy of not postponing total hip replacement surgery provides a significant benefit to patients."
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK said: "You won't necessarily need a hip replacement if you have arthritis of the hip, but it is worth considering if your hip is severely damaged by arthritis and the pain, disability and stiffness are having serious effects on your daily activities."