Conference Coverage

OA management guidelines forgo treatment hierarchy or order but emphasize severity, patient risk factors



– New guidelines for management of osteoarthritis of the hand, knee, and hip from the American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation lay out a wide range of treatment options without an algorithm or hierarchy, making strong recommendations for nondrug interventions and for tailoring plans to individual patient-level factors.

Dr. Sharon L. Kolasinski, chair of the ACR guidelines and professor of clinical rheumatology at Penn Medicine (Pennsylvania), Jeff Craven/MDedge News

Dr. Sharon L. Kolasinski

Since the ACR last released OA management guidelines in 2012, a number of recommendations have been added, changed, and removed, and the structure of the guidelines has also changed. For instance, the new OA guidelines include a broad list of management options, Sharon L. Kolasinski, MD, chair of the ACR guidelines panel and professor of clinical medicine in the division of rheumatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, said in a presentation at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.

“The new guideline emphasizes comprehensive management of patients with OA, rather than a stepwise algorithm in a linear manner,” she said.

There is also no hierarchy to the recommendations, apart from the strength of the recommendation. “For any individual patient, a single option may be chosen at a particular time point, perhaps with or without other options, and may be reused in the future. For a given intervention, there might be a period of time over which it’s useful, and then the option might be changed,” Dr. Kolasinski noted.

Dr. Kolasinski advised making treatment decisions based on a patient’s disease severity, whether the patient uses medical devices, and in consideration of patient risk factors. “A history of injuries, surgical history, access to care, personal beliefs and preferences should all be brought to bear on decision making for osteoarthritis management,” she said.

The guidelines also advise considering a patient’s overall well-being and factors related to a patient’s perception of pain and function, such as mood disorders, altered sleep, chronic pain, impaired coping measures, and stress level. “Comprehensive management requires a broad assessment of how pain and function are affecting the patient with OA as a whole and recognizing that multiple options are available. They might be used in combination or change over time,” Dr. Kolasinski said.

The new guidelines place a strong emphasis on educational, behavioral, psychosocial, mind-body, and physical approaches. There are strong recommendations for the use of exercise, including aerobic, strengthening, neuromuscular, and aquatic exercise. Weight loss also carries a strong recommendation for patients with hip and knee OA, with a focus on group-based exercise, education, fitness and exercise goals, and a multidisciplinary approach using self-efficacy and self-management programs. The panels made a strong recommendation for tai chi to improve hip and knee OA. There are also strong recommendations for orthoses; aids and assistive devices such as canes, first carpometacarpal (CMC) orthoses, and tibiofemoral knee braces. Other interventions, such as Kinesio tape for first CMC joint and knee OA, hand orthoses, and patellofemoral knee braces, carried a conditional recommendation. Other conditional recommendations made by the panel were for acupuncture, thermal interventions, and radiofrequency ablation for patients with knee OA. Balance training for hip and knee OA, yoga for knee OA, and cognitive-behavioral therapy all were conditionally recommended by the panel.

The panel strongly recommended against the use of transcutaneous nerve stimulation for hip and knee OA, Dr. Kolasinski noted. The panel also conditionally recommended against use of modified shoes and pulsed vibration therapy in knee OA; lateral or medial wedged insoles, massage, and manual therapy with exercise in hip or knee OA; and iontophoresis in first CMC OA.

Dr. Tuhina Neogi, chief of rheumatology at Boston University Jeff Craven/MDedge News

Dr. Tuhina Neogi

Tuhina Neogi, MD, PhD, chief of rheumatology at Boston University and member of the core team that developed the guidelines, said in her presentation the panel chose not to use the term “nonpharmacologic” in the guidelines because it may give patients a false impression that they are not receiving a treatment. “We really need to change our language and change the way in which we approach these conversations with our patients so that they don’t feel that they are not getting a treatment when we’re giving these recommendations,” she said.


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