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Hospitalisations for people with osteoarthritis are rising, according to new information on osteoarthritis released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that mostly affects the hands, spine and joints such as hips, knees and ankles, and usually gets worse over time.

It is the most common form of arthritis in Australia with about 1.8 million Australians (8% of the population) having osteoarthritis compared to 443,000 having rheumatoid arthritis.

The new web-based report, available on www.aihw.gov.au, provides a snapshot of the latest statistics on osteoarthritis in Australia.

It shows the hospitalisation rate for Australians with osteoarthritis rose by 25% over the 10 years to 2010-11, from 326 hospitalisations per 100,000 people to 408 per 100,000.

Over the same period the joint replacement surgery rate rose by 41%.

'Osteoarthritis is the predominant condition leading to hip and knee replacement surgery in Australia,' said AIHW spokesperson Nigel Harding.

'In 2010-11, there were 115,000 surgical procedures performed on people with a principal diagnosis of osteoarthritis.

'Of these, almost 30% were knee replacements, 20% were hip replacements and about 10% were exploratory surgeries to diagnose the reason for the pain and damage to the joint.'

Knee replacement rates were higher in women than in men across all age groups except for people aged 85 and over. Contrary to popular belief, hip replacements were more common in men up to the age of 64, after which they were more common in women.

'The number of total joint replacements is rising,' Mr Harding said.

'The rate of knee replacement over the 10 years to 2010-11 rose by 56%, from 95 per 100,000 people to 148 per 100,000. And over the same period, the hip replacement rate rose by 22%, from 77 to 94 per 100,000 people.'

The prevalence of osteoarthritis rises with age. While relatively few younger people have it, after the age of 45 the prevalence rises sharply.

It is more common in women than in men, with about 38% of women aged 75 years having osteoarthritis compared to 23% of men.

In 2008-09, $1.6 billion was spent nationally on osteoarthritis (2.2% of the health budget allocated to diseases), with nearly three-quarters (74%) being spent on hospital patients.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 17 May 2013

Further information: Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1025, mob. 0409 307 671

Web report: Osteoarthritis