Rationing of total knee replacement: a cost-effectiveness analysis on a large trial data set.
Dakin H., Gray A., Fitzpatrick R., Maclennan G., Murray D.
Objectives Many UK primary care trusts have recently introduced eligibility criteria restricting total knee replacement (TKR) to patients with low pre-operative Oxford Knee Scores (OKS) to cut expenditure. We evaluate these criteria by assessing the cost-effectiveness of TKR compared with no knee replacement for patients with different baseline characteristics from an NHS perspective. Design The cost-effectiveness of TKR in different patient subgroups was assessed using regression analyses of patient-level data from the Knee Arthroplasty Trial, a large, pragmatic randomised trial comparing knee prostheses. Setting 34 UK hospitals. Participants 2131 osteoarthritis patients undergoing TKR. Interventions and outcome measures Costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) observed in the Knee Arthroplasty Trial within 5 years of TKR were compared with conservative assumptions about the costs and outcomes that would have been accrued had TKR not been performed. Results On average, primary TKR and 5 years of subsequent care cost £7458 per patient (SD: £4058), and patients gained an average of 1.33 (SD: 1.43) QALYs. As a result, TKR cost £5623/QALY gained. Although costs and health outcomes varied with age and sex, TKR cost <£20 000/QALY gained for patients with American Society of Anaesthesiologists grades 1-2 who had baseline OKS <40 and for American Society of Anaesthesiologists grade 3 patients with OKS <35, even with highly conservative assumptions about costs and outcomes without TKR. Body mass index had no significant effect on costs or outcomes. Restricting TKR to patients with pre-operative OKS <27 would inappropriately deny a highly cost-effective treatment to >10 000 patients annually. Conclusions TKR is highly cost-effective for most current patients if the NHS is willing to pay £20 000-£30 000/QALY gained. At least 97% of TKR patients in England have more severe symptoms than the thresholds we have identified, suggesting that further rationing by OKS is probably unjustified. Trial registration number ISRCTN 45837371.