How high is higher and how low is low? Those are questions this story about joint replacement fails to address. The story is so vague it is hard to see how it is worth the time to read. Instead of referring to a “Study”, the headline should have used the term “News Release.” The potential harm of the lack of actual reporting is compounded by the fact that this “story” was re-posted by MedlinePlus, a product of the National Library of Medicine that should adhere to a much higher standard.
Millions of people with arthritis may at some point face a decision about joint replacement. This sort of news release summary won’t help them or their physicians make informed decisions.
The story does not discuss the costs of joint replacement.
The story includes a quote pulled from a news release that says, “Joint arthroplasty is successful in relieving the pain and disability caused by hip or knee arthritis,” without any details about how successful or any of the specific characteristics of the patients.
Potential harms of joint replacement are the focus of the story, but there is no attempt to put them in perspective for readers.
The story does not tell readers how high or low the rates of complications are. It says people with rheumatoid arthritis had higher rates of dislocation and infection after a joint replacement than those with osteoarthritis, but no relative or absolute risk statistics are reported. The story pulls a quote from a news release saying “complication rates are low,” but “low” is not defined.
The study authors made numerous comments about the assumptions they made and the uncertainties that need to be addressed, but the story did not include any of that context.
The story does not inflate the number of people who might be appropriate candidates for joint replacement.
There were no independent sources. The story did not include the conflict of interest disclosures that were clearly posted at the top of the journal article online.
The story was just about comparing joint replacement outcomes in different groups of patients, so it is understandable that it did not delve into alternative treatment.
Not applicable. No details were given about the availability or widespread use of joint replacements. Even though no specific numbers are reported, readers should understand that joint replacement is a widely available treatment.
Novelty was not at issue.
The story notes that it is based on a news release. The quote is identified as coming from a release. But the poor quality of the story demonstrates why this sort of news release re-write is of little value to readers.
Notably, the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus web site posted this story as is, thus tarnishing the site’s claim to provide “Trusted Health Information for You.”