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Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Medicine; UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center

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Health Services Research | Musculoskeletal Diseases | Musculoskeletal, Neural, and Ocular Physiology | Orthopedics | Race and Ethnicity | Women's Health


Importance: Although racial/ethnic differences in functional outcomes after total knee arthroplasty (TKA) exist, whether such differences are associated with differences in presurgical physical function (PF) has not been thoroughly investigated.

Objective: To examine trajectories of PF by race/ethnicity before and after TKA among older women.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study was conducted among the prospective Women's Health Initiative with linked Medicare claims data. A total of 10325 community-dwelling women throughout the United States with Medicare fee-for-service underwent primary TKA between October 1, 1993, and December 31, 2014, and were followed up through March 31, 2017.

Exposures: Race/ethnicity comparisons between Hispanic or Latina women, non-Hispanic black or African American women, and non-Hispanic white women (hereafter referred to as Hispanic, black, and white women, respectively).

Main Outcomes and Measures: Physical functioning scale scores and self-reported activity limitations with walking 1 block, walking several blocks, and climbing 1 flight of stairs were measured by the RAND 36-Item Health Survey during the decade before and after TKA, with a median of 9 PF measurements collected per participant over time.

Results: In total, 9528 white women (mean [SD] age at surgery, 74.6 [5.5] years), 622 black women (mean [SD] age at surgery, 73.1 [5.3] years), and 175 Hispanic women (mean [SD] age at surgery, 73.1 [5.2] years) underwent TKA. During the decade prior to TKA, black women had lower PF scores than white women (mean difference, -5.8 [95% CI, -8.0 to -3.6]) and higher odds of experiencing difficulty walking a single block (5 years before TKA: odds ratio, 1.86 [95% CI, 1.57-2.21]), walking multiple blocks (odds ratio, 2.14 [95% CI, 1.83-2.50]), and climbing 1 flight of stairs (odds ratio, 1.81 [95% CI, 1.55-2.12]). After TKA, black women continued to have lower PF scores throughout the decade (mean difference 1 year after TKA, -7.8 [95% CI, -10.8 to -4.9]). After adjusting for preoperative PF scores, PF scores after TKA were attenuated (mean difference 1 year after TKA, -3.0 [95% CI, -5.3 to -0.7]), with no statistically significant differences in long-term follow-up. Hispanic women had similar PF scores to white women during the pre-TKA and post-TKA periods.

Conclusions and Relevance: This study suggests that black women had significantly poorer PF than white women during the decades before and after TKA. Poorer PF after surgery was associated with poorer preoperative PF. Reducing disparities in post-TKA functional outcomes should target maintenance of function preoperatively in the early stages of arthritic disease and/or reduction of delays to receiving TKA once need arises.


total knee arthroplasty, TKA, physical function, women, race, ethnicity

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Copyright 2020 Cavanaugh AM et al. JAMA Network Open. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License.

DOI of Published Version



Cavanaugh AM, Rauh MJ, Thompson CA, Alcaraz J, Mihalko WM, Bird CE, Corbie-Smith G, Rosal MC, Li W, Shadyab AH, Gilmer T, LaCroix AZ. Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Physical Function Before and After Total Knee Arthroplasty Among Women in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 May 1;3(5):e204937. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.4937. PMID: 32412635; PMCID: PMC7229524. Link to article on publisher's site

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JAMA network open

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.