New osteoarthritis guidelines

New guidelines released this week by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) advise that surgery should be considered as the last resort for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis and that exercise is the most effective treatment for Australians suffering from the common condition.

RACGP President-elect Dr Harry Nespolon notes the need for improved guidelines to cater for Australia’s ageing population and increasing rates of obesity, with 12 per cent of the population expected to suffer from osteoarthritis by 2030.

“After comprehensive research and review, it’s important the medical profession is updated on how best to approach the growing concern of osteoarthritis,” he said.

“When it comes to management of osteoarthritis, every patient is different, but exercise is the new frontrunner when it comes to best management, ahead of previous invasive recommendations of surgery and medications.

“When reviewing the statistics, it is alarming how many surgeries may have been completed unnecessarily and with little gain.

“Medication and surgery may still be used for serious cases, but many cases can be assisted with diet and lifestyle changes.

“For many of our patients, the change in direction of management of this illness will provide the opportunity for people to live healthy and active lifestyles for years longer than before.”

The new guidelines include:

  • An emphasis on exercise and weight management for patients suffering with knee and hip osteoarthritis.
  • Strong advice to turn away from using opioids in the treatment of the condition.
  • The recommendation that knee replacement surgery should only be considered when a patient’s symptoms fail to respond to non-surgical treatments.
  • Recommended reduction in the use of diagnostic imaging.

The Guidelines for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis will be rolled out to GPs across the country from this week.

The guidelines were produced by a working group of leading clinicians, consumer organisations and industry experts and have been endorsed by the National Health Medical Research Council.