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Indications for total hip replacement: comparison of assessments of orthopaedic surgeons and referring physicians


Objectives: To analyse differences of opinions on indications for primary total hip replacements (THRs) within and between groups of orthopaedic surgeons and the physicians who refer patients to them.

Methods: 22 orthopaedic centres in 12 European countries took part, resulting in a postal survey of 304 orthopaedic surgeons and 314 referring physicians. Each participant was asked to state what importance different domains (pain, functional impairment, physical examination and radiographs) have on their decision to recommend THR and to select the most appropriate level of severity of each symptom or sign for recommending THR. In addition, the participants were asked to prioritise other personal or environmental factors that affect their decision to undertake a THR.

Results: Rest pain, pain with activity and functional limitations were the most important criteria for THR, although range of motion and radiographic changes were of least importance. Both similarities and differences were observed within and between groups of surgeons and referring physicians in the overall approach to indications and the most appropriate level of severity of disease for recommending THR. Most surgeons agreed on severity levels in only 4 of 11 items and most referring physicians in only one. Between the groups, major differences occurred with regard to the importance of activities of daily living and the appropriate level of symptoms for THR. In general, compared with surgeons, referring physicians reported that the disease needed to be more advanced to warrant surgery.

Conclusion: Currently, no consensus exists on objective indication criteria for THR. The observed differences between the gatekeepers (referring physicians) and surgeons can lead to variations and perhaps inequities in the provision of care.

  • EUROHIP, The European collaborative database of cost and practice patterns of THR
  • THR, total hip replacement

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