Cost-effectiveness analysis of arthroscopic surgery compared with non-operative management for osteoarthritis of the knee

First published: 12 Jan 2016



To determine the cost-effectiveness of arthroscopic surgery in addition to non-operative treatments compared with non-operative treatments alone in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Design, setting and participants

We conducted an economic evaluation alongside a single-centre, randomised trial among patients with symptomatic, radiographic knee OA (KL grade ≥2).


Patients received arthroscopic debridement and partial resection of degenerative knee tissues in addition to optimised non-operative therapy, or optimised non-operative therapy only.

Main outcome measures

Direct and indirect costs were collected prospectively over the 2-year study period. The effectiveness outcomes were the Western Ontario McMaster Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). Cost-effectiveness was estimated using the net benefit regression framework considering a range of willingness-to-pay values from the Canadian public payer and societal perspectives. We calculated incremental cost-effectiveness ratios and conducted sensitivity analyses using the extremes of the 95% CIs surrounding mean differences in effect between groups.


168 patients were included. Patients allocated to arthroscopy received partial resection and debridement of degenerative meniscal tears (81%) and/or articular cartilage (97%). There were no significant differences between groups in use of non-operative treatments. The incremental net benefit was negative for all willingness-to-pay values. Uncertainty estimates suggest that even if willing to pay $400 000 to achieve a clinically important improvement in WOMAC score, or ≥$50 000 for an additional QALY, there is <20% probability that the addition of arthroscopy is cost-effective compared with non-operative therapies only. Our sensitivity analysis suggests that even when assuming the largest treatment effect, the addition of arthroscopic surgery is not economically attractive compared with non-operative treatments only.


Arthroscopic debridement of degenerative articular cartilage and resection of degenerative meniscal tears in addition to non-operative treatments for knee OA is not an economically attractive treatment option compared with non-operative treatment only, regardless of willingness-to-pay value.


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REF: Marsh, J., Birmingham, T., Giffin, J., Isaranuwatchai, W., Hoch, J., Feagan, B., Litchfield, R., Willits, K. and Fowler, P. (2016). Cost-effectiveness analysis of arthroscopic surgery compared with non-operative management for osteoarthritis of the knee. BMJ Open, 6(1), p.e009949.

Tags: Macquarie Stem Cells, Dr. Bright, Osteoarthritis Treatment, Dr. Ralph Bright, Stem Cell Therapy, Stem Cell Treatment, Stem Cells for Arthritis

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