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A programme to help obese hip and knee patients lose weight before surgery has resulted in better post-surgical outcomes and improved health.

Patients taking part in the Early Dietetic Intervention (EDI) programme have regular sessions with a dietician before and after surgery, and set individuals weight loss goals.

The programme was developed by the Canterbury District Health Board's orthopaedic unit in partnership with University of Otago, Christchurch, surgeon Professor Gary Hooper. Dietician Emma Lloyd was hired to work specifically on the programme.

Obese patients have more post-surgical problems.

The dedicated effort acknowledged growing rates of morbidly obese and obese patients referred for hip and knee surgery. Extra weight puts increased pressure on joints and post-surgical infections are more common.

Since its introduction in 2008, more than 900 patients have taken part. A study on the programme by Professor Hooper found it helped patients achieve significant weight loss, translating into improved joint function and reduced need for surgery.

6300kgs lost overall, many health benefits.

A year after their surgery 70 per cent of patients achieved or maintained their goal weight loss. Combined, they lost more than 6300kgs. Almost 10% of patient avoided surgery because of their weight loss. Participants also had fewer diabetes, arthritis and hypertension symptoms.

Professor Hooper says dietician Emma Lloyd is to be congratulated on the results of this programme.

"Other studies looking at weight loss prior to surgery show poor results with an inability to maintain weight loss. I believe this programme's structure, with an emphasis on family and peer support, has made the difference. Emma Lloyd has been able to engage these patients and they have responded by achieving these impressive results. Not only have a considerable number of patients avoided major surgery but many have improved their general physical well-being so that surgery could be performed with fewer risks."

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