Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy August 2016, Volume 24, Issue 8, pp 2697–2703

The reason why orthopaedic surgeons perform total knee replacement: results of a randomised study using case vignettes

Verra, W.C., Witteveen, K.Q., Maier, A.B. et al.


End-stage knee osteoarthritis (OA) results in total knee arthroplasty (TKA) surgery. The decision to perform TKA is not well defined, resulting in variation of indications among orthopaedic surgeons. Non-operative treatment measures are often not extensively used. Aim of this study was to investigate factors influencing the decision to perform TKA by Dutch orthopaedic surgeons.



Three case vignettes, each case divided into two versions, being identical except for information on age (younger and older age), pain (mild and severe pain) or radiological OA (low and high grade) were developed. A questionnaire including these three case vignettes was sent to 599 Dutch orthopaedic surgeons, who were randomised to either one of the two versions. The orthopaedic surgeons were asked whether TKA would be the next step in treatment. Furthermore, from a list of patient factors they were asked how strong these factors would influence the decision to perform TKA.



54 % of the orthopaedic surgeons completed the questionnaire (n = 326). Orthopaedic surgeons indicated to perform TKA significantly more often at higher age (73.3 vs. 45.5 %, p < 0.001). In the presence of mild pain, orthopaedic surgeons were slightly more reluctant to perform a TKA compared to severe pain (57.0 vs. 64.0 %, n.s.). Mild radiological OA made surgeons more reluctant to perform TKA compared to severe OA (9.7 vs. 96.9 %, p < 0.001).


Old age and severe radiological OA are variables which are considered to be important in the decision to perform a TKA. Pain symptoms of moderate or severe pain are unequivocal when considering a TKA.


Level of evidence

Economic/decision analysis, Level III.

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