Comparison of general internists, family physicians, and rheumatologists managing patients with symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee

Steven A. Mazzuca, Kenneth D. Brandt, Barry P. Katz, Robert S. Dittus, Deborah A. Freund, Robert Lubitz, Gillian Hawker, George Eckert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

58 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective. To evaluate the nature, risks, and benefits of osteoarthritis (OA) management by primary care physicians and rheumatologists. Methods. Subjects were 419 patients followed for symptoms of knee OA by either a specialist in family medicine (FM) or general internal medicine (GIM) or by a rheumatologist (RH). Management practices were characterized by in-home documentation by a visiting nurse of drugs taken to relieve OA pain or to prevent gastrointestinal side effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and by patient report (self-administered survey) of nonpharmacologic treatments. Changes in outcomes (knee pain and physical function) over 6 months were measured with the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index. Results. Patients of RHs were 2-3 years older (P = 0.035) and fended to exhibit greater radiographic severity of OA (P = 0.064) and poorer physical function (P = 0.076) at baseline than the other 2 groups. In all 3 groups, knee pain and physical function improved slightly over 6 months; however, between-group differences were not significant. Compared to drug management of knee pain by FMs or RHs, that by the GIMs was distinguished by greater utilization of acetaminophen and nonacetylated salicylates (P = 0.008), lower prescribed doses of NSAIDs (P = 0.007), and, therefore, lower risk of iatrogenic gastroenteropathy (P < 0.001). In contrast, patients ofRHs were more likely than those of FMs and GIMs to report that they had been instructed in use of isometric quadriceps and range-of-motion exercises (P ≤ 0.001), application of heat (P = 0.051) and cold (P < 0.001) packs, and in the principles of joint protection (P = 0.016). Neither physician specialty nor specific management practices accounted for variations in patient outcomes. Conclusion. This observational study identified specialty-related variability in key aspects of the management of knee OA in the community (i.e., frequency and dosing of NSAIDs, use of nonpharmacologic modalities) that bear strong implications for long-term safety and cost. However, changes in knee pain and function over 6 months were unrelated to variations in management practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-299
Number of pages11
JournalArthritis and Rheumatism
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

Keywords

  • Knee osteoarthritis
  • Patient outcomes
  • Practice variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology

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    Mazzuca, S. A., Brandt, K. D., Katz, B. P., Dittus, R. S., Freund, D. A., Lubitz, R., Hawker, G., & Eckert, G. (1997). Comparison of general internists, family physicians, and rheumatologists managing patients with symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis and Rheumatism, 10(5), 289-299. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.1790100503