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Arthroscopic debridement of the knee for osteoarthritis in patients fifty years of age or older: utilization and outcomes in the Province of Ontario

Wai EK, Kreder HJ, Williams JI. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2002; 84(1):17-22.


Background — There is little available information regarding the effectiveness of arthroscopic knee débridement for the treatment of arthritis. The purpose of this study was to evaluate patterns of utilization of arthroscopic knee débridement and outcomes following that procedure for the treatment of degenerative arthritis in persons fifty years of age or older in the Province of Ontario.

Methods — All patients fifty years of age or older who underwent elective arthroscopic knee débridement for the treatment of degenerative arthritis between 1992 and 1996 were identified from administrative data sets. Surgical complications and subsequent knee replacements were noted. Population rates were compared across the sixteen District Health Council regions within Ontario. Outcomes were modeled as a function of patient age, gender, and comorbidity with use of multivariate regression analysis.

Results — We identified 14,391 eligible unilateral arthroscopic knee débridement procedures. There was a threefold difference in the population rate of arthroscopic débridement across geographic regions. Overall, 1330 (9.2%) of all patients required total knee arthroplasty within one year after the débridement. Of the 6212 patients with a minimum three-year follow-up, 1146 (18.4%) had undergone total knee replacement within three years following the débridement. Patients who were at least seventy years of age were 4.7 times more likely to have total knee arthroplasty within one year after the débridement than were those less than sixty years of age (19.0% compared with 4.0%; p < 0.05). Patients sixty years of age or older were more likely to have an early total knee replacement (within one year after the débridement) in District Health Council regions where the population rates of arthroscopic knee débridement were higher (p = 0.04).

Conclusions — The higher rates of early total knee arthroplasty and the significant relationship between rates of early total knee arthroplasty and rates of utilization suggest that arthroscopic débridement for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee may be overutilized in elderly patients. Important clinical issues such as patient preference, risk perception, and functional outcome cannot be addressed just with the administrative data used for this study.

Keywords: Osteoarthritis Geriatrics and aging Surgery

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