Ann Rheum Dis 60:91-97 doi:10.1136/ard.60.2.91
  • Review

Knee pain and osteoarthritis in older adults: a review of community burden and current use of primary health care

  1. G Peat,
  2. R McCarney,
  3. P Croft
  1. Primary Care Sciences Research Centre, Keele University, UK
  1. Dr G Peat, Primary Care Sciences Research Centre, School of Postgraduate Medicine, Keele University, The Medical Institute, Hartshill Road, Stoke-on-Trent ST7 4NY, UKg.m.peat{at}
  • Accepted 25 July 2000


BACKGROUND Osteoarthritis is the single most common cause of disability in older adults, and most patients with the condition will be managed in the community and primary care.

AIM To discuss case definition of knee osteoarthritis for primary care and to summarise the burden of the condition in the community and related use of primary health care in the United Kingdom.

DESIGN Narrative review.

METHOD A literature search identified studies of incidence and prevalence of knee pain, disability, and radiographic osteoarthritis in the general population, and data related to primary care consultations. Findings from UK studies were summarised with reference to European and international studies.

RESULTS During a one year period 25% of people over 55 years have a persistent episode of knee pain, of whom about one in six in the UK and the Netherlands consult their general practitioner about it in the same time period. The prevalence of painful disabling knee osteoarthritis in people over 55 years is 10%, of whom one quarter are severely disabled.

CONCLUSION Knee osteoarthritis sufficiently severe to consider joint replacement represents a minority of all knee pain and disability suffered by older people. Healthcare provision in primary care needs to focus on this broader group to impact on community levels of pain and disability.