Nationally, experimental estimated Indigenous life expectancy was 59 years for Indigenous males (compared with 77 for all males) and 65 years for Indigenous females (compared with 82 years for all females). This is a difference of around 17 years for both males and females (ABS 2004).

The Australian Government has embarked on numerous educational and health campaigns addressing the disease processes that lead to such a stark difference in life expectancy. The results of these campaigns are evident, as the population of Indigenous Australians over 60 years of age has risen from 9968 (Census 1986) to 25604 (Census 2008). As a result, we are now beginning to see orthopaedic degenerative disease states such as osteoarthritis. This increase in the number of Iindigenous Australians suffering from osteoarthritis will result in a greater number of hip and knee joint arthroplasty for osteoarthritis. Although the largest populations of Indigenous patients reside in urban areas, notably Sydney (census count 41,800), Brisbane (41,400) and Perth (21,300), the Torres Strait region of Queensland has 83% of the Indigenous population in remote Australia (Census 2008).

This is reflected in the number of hip and knee joint arthroplasties performed through the orthopaedic department at the Cairns Base Hospital on indigenous patients, from a total of seven in 2001 to a total of 22 in 2008.

Retrospective analysis was conducted of those patients failing to attend their full complement of post-operative follow-up in the first year post total hip and knee joint arthroplasty for the eight year period from 2001 to 2008 at the Cairns Base Hospital. Within this period a total of 99 hip and knee arthroplasties were performed on indigenous patients. Over 30% of indigenous patients failed to attend their full complement of post-operative follow up in the first year post hip and knee joint arthroplasty.

Due to the increasing life expectancy of the indigenous population, more are presenting with orthopaedic degenerative disease states that require joint arthroplasty. The higher number of co-morbidities such as type II diabetes mellitus and peripheral vascular disease makes post operative follow up of the indigenous patient essential to avoid complications. The lack of follow up will undoubtedly lead to an inability to appropriately monitor the indigenous patient's recovery and/or decrease in morbidity post total hip and knee joint arthroplasty. Patient centered follow-up must be given greater consideration in relation to the Australian indigenous population such as an increase in outreach services, the provision of orthopaedic follow up by the local health practitioners in the rural and remote setting, maintaining up to date contact details along with affording the indigenous patient greater access to transport so as to improve follow up.