The researchers, however, found that low birth weight and pre-term babies were not at risk of knee replacement surgery due to osteoarthritis (OA) as adults.

"Our findings suggest that individuals born prematurely or with low birth weight are more likely to need hip replacement surgery for OA in adulthood," said lead investigator, Flavia Cicuttini, professor at the Monash University in Australia.

The study used data from 3,604 participants, who were 40 years of age or older at the time when joint replacement surgeries were conducted. The participants were part of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study.

Of them, 116 had knee replacement surgery and 75 underwent hip arthroplasty for OA. Low birth weight and pre-term birth were linked to increased incidence of hip replacement surgery, but not knee replacement surgery.

"Currently there are no disease-modifying medications available to treat OA, which makes understanding the risk factors associated with OA important for improving prevention of this disabling disease," Cicuttini added.

Symptoms of OA range from mild to severe pain, stiffness and swelling of joints.

OA is the most common cause of disability. The study appeared in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

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