Original Research

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

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Additional limitations stem from the retrospective nature of this study. While the Computerized Patient Record System and centralized care of the VA system allows for review of all physical therapy consultations, orthotic consultations, and medications within the VA system, any treatments and intervention delivered by non-VA providers were not captured. Furthermore, the ability to assess for confounding variables limiting the prescription of certain medications, such as chronic kidney disease with NSAIDs or liver disease with acetaminophen, was limited by our study design.

Although our study suffers from selection bias with respect to examination of nonarthroplasty treatment in patients who have ultimately undergone TKA, we feel that this subset of patients with symptomatic knee OA represents the majority of patients evaluated for knee OA by orthopaedic surgeons in the clinic setting. It should be noted that although realignment osteotomies were sometimes indicated as appropriate by AAOS AUC model in our study population, this intervention was never performed due to patient and surgeon preference. Additionally, although it is not an AAOS AUC evaluated intervention, viscosupplementation was sporadically used during the study period; however, it is now off formulary at the investigation institution.


Our study suggests that patients without knee instability use more nonarthroplasty treatments over a longer period before TKA, and those patients with less severe knee OA are at risk of receiving an intervention judged to be rarely appropriate by the AAOS AUC. Such interventions do not affect timing of TKA. Nonarthroplasty care should be individualized to patients’ needs, and the decision to proceed with arthroplasty should be considered only after exhausting appropriate conservative measures. We recommend that providers use the AAOS AUC, especially when treating younger patients with less severe knee OA, particularly if considering opiate therapy or knee arthroscopy.

The authors would like to acknowledge Patrick Getty, MD, for his surgical care of some of the study patients. This material is the result of work supported with resources and the use of facilities at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in Ohio.

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