Knee osteoarthritis among airport baggage handlers: A prospective cohort study

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Sigurd Mikkelsen, Ellen B Pedersen, Charlotte Brauer, Karina L Møller, Tine Alkjaer, Henrik Koblauch, Erik B Simonsen, Lau C Thygesen

BACKGROUND: Knee osteoarthritis is a common and often disabling disorder, which has been related to knee-straining work. However, exposure response relations are uncertain and there are few prospective studies. We studied prospectively if incident knee osteoarthritis is associated with cumulative exposure as an airport baggage handler, lifting on average 5000 kg/d.

METHODS: The study is based on the Copenhagen Airport Cohort, a historical cohort of male baggage handlers and a reference group of unskilled men from the greater Copenhagen area, followed from 1990 to 2012. Cumulative years of employment as a baggage handler was based on information from company employment and union registers. Outcome was first hospital admission with a discharge diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis and/or knee replacement, ascertained from the Danish National Patient Register.

RESULTS: The cohort contained 3442 baggage handlers and 65 511 workers in the reference group. The unadjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR) of knee osteoarthritis increased steeply with cumulative years as a baggage handler. Although the exposure-response pattern became weaker and statistically nonsignificant (P ≈ .10) when adjusting for age, the risk of knee osteoarthritis was still increased in baggage handlers at the highest exposure level. Additional analyses showed that the association between age and osteoarthritis was stronger for baggage handlers (IRR = 2.09; 95% CI: 1.68-2.60) than for referents (IRR = 1.58; 95% CI: 1.53-1.63), indicating that knee osteoarthritis occurred at a younger age among baggage handlers than in the reference group.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this prospective cohort study support that long-term heavy lifting increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Aug 2019

ID: 226528264