Original Research

Evaluation of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Appropriate Use Criteria for the Nonarthroplasty Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis in Veterans

While patients without knee instability use more nonarthroplasty treatments over a longer period prior to total knee arthroplasty, patients with less severe knee osteoarthritis are at risk of receiving interventions judged to be rarely appropriate.

Author and Disclosure Information



Knee osteoarthritis (OA) affects almost 9.3 million adults in the US and accounts for $27 billion in annual health care expenses.1,2 Due to the increasing cost of health care and an aging population, there has been renewed interest in establishing criteria for nonarthroplasty treatment of knee OA.

In 2013, using the RAND/UCLA Appropriateness method, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) developed an appropriate use criteria (AUC) for nonarthroplasty management of primary OA of the knee, based on orthopaedic literature and expert opinion.3 Interventions such as activity modification, weight loss, prescribed physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, tramadol, prescribed oral or transcutaneous opioids, acetaminophen, intra-articular corticosteroids, hinged or unloading knee braces, arthroscopic partial menisectomy or loose body removal, and realignment osteotomy were assessed. An algorithm was developed for 576 patients scenarios that incorporated patient-specific, prognostic/predictor variables to assign designations of “appropriate,” “may be appropriate,” or “rarely appropriate,” to treatment interventions.4,5 An online version of the algorithm (orthoguidelines.org) is available for physicians and surgeons to judge appropriateness of nonarthroplasty treatments; however, it is not intended to mandate candidacy for treatment or intervention.

Clinical evaluation of the AAOS AUC is necessary to determine how treatment recommendations correlate with current practice. A recent examination of the AAOS Appropriateness System for Surgical Management of Knee OA found that prognostic/predictor variables, such as patient age, OA severity, and pattern of knee OA involvement were more heavily weighted when determining arthroplasty appropriateness than was pain severity or functional loss.6 Furthermore, non-AAOS AUC prognostic/predictor variables, such as race and gender, have been linked to disparities in utilization of knee OA interventions.7-9 Such disparities can be costly not just from a patient perceptive, but also employer and societal perspectives.10

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system represents a model of equal-access-to care system in the US that is ideal for examination of issues about health care utilization and any disparities within the AAOS AUC model and has previously been used to assess utilization of total knee arthroplasty.9 The aim of this study was to characterize utilization of the AAOS AUC for nonarthroplasty treatment of knee OA in a VA patient population. We asked the following questions: (1) What variables are predictive of receiving a greater number of AAOS AUC evaluated nonarthroplasty treatments? (2) What variables are predictive of receiving “rarely appropriate” AAOS AUC evaluated nonarthroplasty treatment? (3) What factors are predictive of duration of nonarthroplasty care until total knee arthroplasty (TKA)?


The institutional review board at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in Ohio approved a retrospective chart review of nonarthroplasty treatments utilized by patients presenting to its orthopaedic section who subsequently underwent knee arthroplasty between 2013 and 2016. Eligibility criteria included patients aged ≥ 30 years with a diagnosis of unilateral or bilateral primary knee OA. Patients with posttraumatic OA, inflammatory arthritis, and a history of infectious arthritis or Charcot arthropathy of the knee were excluded. Patients with a body mass index (BMI) > 40 or a hemoglobin A1c > 8.0 at presentation were excluded as nonarthroplasty care was the recommended course of treatment above these thresholds.


Next Article:

Emicizumab performs well in surgical setting

Related Articles