Objectives We investigated trends and regional variation in the rate of arthroscopic knee surgery performed in England from 1997–1998 to 2016–2017.
Design Cross-sectional study of the national hospital episode statistics (HES) for England.
Methods All hospital episodes for patients undergoing a knee arthroscopy between 1 April 1997 and 31 March 2017 were extracted from HES by procedure code. Age and sex-standardised rates of surgery were calculated using Office for National Statistic population data as the denominator. Trends in the rate of surgery were analysed by procedure both nationally and by Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Results A total of 1 088 872 arthroscopic partial meniscectomies (APMs), 326 600 diagnostic arthroscopies, 308 618 knee washouts and 252 885 chondroplasties were identified (1 759 467 hospital admissions; 1 447 142 patients). The rate of APM increased from a low of 51/100 000 population (95% CI 51 to 52) in 1997–1998 to a peak at 149/100 000 (95% CI 148 to 150) in 2013–2014; then, after 2014–2015, rates declined to 120/100 000 (95% CI 119 to 121) in 2016–2017. Rates of arthroscopic knee washout and diagnostic arthroscopy declined steadily from 50/100 000 (95% CI 49 to 50) and 47/100 000 (95% CI 46 to 47) respectively in 1997–1998, to 4.8/100 000 (95% CI 4.6 to 5.0) and 8.1/100 000 (95% CI 7.9 to 8.3) in 2016–2017. Rates of chondroplasty have increased from a low of 3.2/100 000 (95% CI 3.0 to 3.3) in 1997–1998 to 51/100 000 (95% CI 50.6 to 51.7) in 2016–2017. Substantial regional and age–group variation in practice was detected. In 2016–2017, between 11% (22/207) and 16% (34/207) of CCGs performed at least double the national average rate of each procedure.
Conclusions Over the last 20 years, and likely in response to new evidence, rates of arthroscopic knee washout and diagnostic arthroscopy have declined by up to 90%. APM rates increased about 130% overall but have declined recently. Rates of chondroplasty increased about 15-fold. There is significant variation in practice, but the appropriate population intervention rate for these procedures remains unknown.
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Contributors SGFA: guarantor, concept, methodology, analysis, writing and editing paper. AJ: methodology, writing and editing paper. DJB: concept, writing and editing paper. HAW: writing and editing paper. AJP: concept, methodology, writing and editing paper.
Funding This report is independent research supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship, Mr Simon Abram, DRF-2017-10-030) and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).
Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research or the Department of Health.
Competing interests All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form (available on request from the corresponding author). Andrew Judge has received consultancy fees from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (on behalf of Smith & Nephew Orthopaedics Limited) and is a member of the Data Safety and Monitoring Board (which involved receipt of fees) from Anthera Pharmaceuticals, Inc. All other authors declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years, no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.
Patient consent Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data available.
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