What of guidelines for osteoarthritis?


Dr Anita Lim, University Medicine Cluster, Tower Block Level 10 National University Health System, 1E Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119228.
Email: anita_lim@nuhs.edu.sg


Osteoarthritis (OA) is by far the most common joint disease and a major cause of pain and disability. The prevalence and impact of OA will increase in the next decades in the Asia-Pacific region due to increased longevity, increasing urbanization and a parallel increase in obesity. The three main types of evidence to inform evidence-based practice are research evidence, expert experience and patient opinion – all three of these are equally weighted. Guideline development groups vary in terms of process and structure of guideline production and in how much integration there is between research, expert and patient evidence. Nevertheless, guidelines on OA concur in recommending: holistic assessment of the patient and individualizing the management plan; patient information access; weight loss if overweight or obese, and prescription of exercise. Additional adjunctive non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions, including surgery, may be added to this core set as required. However, when audited, it appears that management of OA is often suboptimal, with a major focus on oral analgesics, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. A number of barriers to implementation are evident and appropriate audit of care is necessary to improve delivery of service and to plan healthcare resources. For OA, the effect size of placebo in clinical trials is usually far greater than the additional specific effect of individual treatments, emphasizing the importance of contextual (‘meaning’) response in this chronic painful condition. This has important implications for clinical care in that optimization of the contextual response can lead to improvements in patient outcomes even in the absence of very effective treatments.