Impact of Clinical Practice Guidelines on Use of Injections for Knee OA

Knee Injection for OBuzzIn a recent OrthoBuzz post, I commented on the apparent benefits to patients when Scottish hip-fracture guidelines were followed. Now, in a “closer-to-home” study in the May 16, 2018 issue of JBJS, Bedard et al. examine the effects of AAOS clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) on the use of injections for knee osteoarthritis (OA). The authors used an insurance database housing more than 1 million knee OA patients to evaluate the change in rates of corticosteroid and hyaluronic acid injections from 2007 to 2015. This date range includes the periods before and after the publication of the AAOS CPGs for knee arthritis (both the first edition, published in early 2009, and the second edition, published in late 2013).

The authors found that the rate of hyaluronic acid injections by orthopaedic surgeons decreased significantly after both publications of the guidelines and that the utilization of corticosteroid injections appears to have plateaued since the most recently published guidelines. Still, almost 40% of all of the patients in the cohort received a corticosteroid injection, with 13% having received a hyaluronic acid injection. In absolute numbers, those percentages represent more than half a million injections, despite the facts that the evidence supporting either injection for the treatment of knee OA is weak at best and that almost half of the patients receiving one of these injections ended up getting a total knee replacement within a year.

While the changes in practice revealed by Bedard et al. may seem relatively small, they are a step in the right direction toward value-based care.  CPGs are easy to pick apart, but they are developed carefully and for a good reason—to provide us with evidence-based recommendations for excellent patient care. It is gratifying to see that such guidelines are having a positive impact in our field.

Chad A. Krueger, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor for Social Media

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