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Keywords:

  • management;
  • osteoarthritis;
  • primary care

Abstract

Objective:  Primary care management of knee osteoarthritis (OA) has received little attention in the scientific literature and the main reason for this survey is to study and explore the variations and patterns of primary care management and assess both conventional and complementary therapy usage in knee OA in the primary care setting.

Methods:  A cross-sectional survey of 200 randomly selected general practitioners (GPs) in the peninsular states of Malaysia was undertaken using a questionnaire. The GPs involved were asked about basic knowledge of OA in terms of diagnosis, investigation, and treatment. They were also asked about their usage of conventional and complementary medication.

Results:  One hundred and eighty (90%) GPs responded to the questionnaires sent: 77% were in solo practice and 33% in group practice. Most of the GPs surveyed (60%) had been in practice for more than 10 years, 30% for 5–10 years and 10% were in practice for less than 5 years. Of GPs surveyed, 55% saw an average of more than 20 patients per week, 35% about 10–20 patients and 10% less than 10 patients per week. Of GPs surveyed, 65% would arrange an X-ray, 55% would arrange a blood test, mostly serum uric acid, rheumatoid factor and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Pharmacological management consists of first-line treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (61%), analgesics (35%) or a combination of the two (4%). Non-pharmacological management consisted of advice on exercise (27%), weight reduction (33%) and referral to physiotherapy (10%). Of GPs surveyed, 85% prescribed some form of complementary medications, 60% prescribed glucosamine sulphate, 21% chondroitin sulphate, 11% cod liver oil and 9% evening primrose oil. Only 10% of GPs surveyed perform intra-articular injections.

Conclusion:  The data suggest that in the primary care setting, the majority of GPs over-investigate the diagnosis of OA. Pharmacological interventions largely concentrate on analgesics and NSAIDs. The use of physiotheraphy and non-drug approaches were significantly under-utilized. There is a need to further educate GPs in the management of OA.