Surgery Not the Only Option for People with Knee Osteoarthritis

Yet Study Finds Most Not Sticking with Non-Surgical Treatment Plans

July 22, 2022 (Vancouver) – Research reveals only one in five people with knee osteoarthritis follow advice of international guidelines that recommend non-surgical treatments (e.g. education, exercise, weight management, and pain medications) as first-line treatments.

The same research also found that two in five people use treatments that are not aligned with recommendations by a physician, such as wearing a knee brace, using orthotics, taking opioids, hyaluronic acid, plasma, and stem cell therapy.

“These findings are important because knee osteoarthritis is a growing problem around the world,” said Darren Mazzei, an Arthritis Research Canada research trainee at the University of Calgary, supervised by Arthritis Research Canada scientists Deborah Marshall and Jackie Whittaker. Whittaker adds, “It is estimated that by 2040, 12 million Canadians will have osteoarthritis – a painful and life-changing disease for which there is no cure. Managing symptoms is key to helping millions maintain a high quality of life.”

Non-surgical treatments and drugs would typically be suggested for individuals with osteoarthritis who are not candidates for surgery. This study examined the actual use of these services after consultation with a surgeon in a cohort of people with knee osteoarthritis.

Participants completed a questionnaire to determine whether or not people with knee osteoarthritis continue with their treatments in the six years following an orthopedic surgeon recommending non-surgical care.

The evidence suggests that first-line treatment options like education, exercise, and weight management for knee osteoarthritis are underused in treating osteoarthritis and drug and surgical treatments are overused.

In fact, 55,285 knee replacements were performed in Canada between 2020 and 2021. And over $1.3 billion was spent on hip and knee replacement surgeries during that time. The number of hip and knee replacements has increased each year over the past 10 years, with the exception of 2020-2021, when many surgeries were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our questionnaire provides evidence that more needs to be done to help osteoarthritis patients continue with their treatment over time to improve their overall health, reduce wait times for joint replacement surgery, and decrease the demands that surgery for osteoarthritis places on the healthcare system,” Mazzei said.

To learn more about this research, please click here.


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Meeka Marsolais
Marketing and Communications Officer
604-207-4010 or mmarsolais@arthritisresearch.ca

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