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Ann Rheum Dis. 2004 Nov; 63(11): 1483–1489.
PMCID: PMC1754820

Inequalities in access to knee joint replacements for people in need


Objectives: To quantify the effects of socioeconomic deprivation and rurality on evidence of need for total knee joint replacement and the use of health services, after adjusting for age and sex.

Methods: A random stratified sample of 15 000 people aged [gt-or-equal, slanted]65 years taken from central age/sex registers for the geographical areas covered by the previous Sheffield and Wiltshire Health Authorities. A self completion validated questionnaire was then mailed directly to subjects to assess need for knee joint replacement surgery and whether general practice and hospital services were being used. Subjects were followed up for 18 months to evaluate access to surgery.

Results: The response rate was 78% after three mailings. In those aged 65 years and over (with and without comorbidity), the proportion with no comorbid factors and in need of knee replacement was 5.1%; the rate of need among subjects without comorbidity was 7.9%. There were inequalities in health and access to health related to age, sex, geography, and deprivation but not rurality. People who were more deprived had greater need. Older and deprived people were less likely to access health services. Only 6.4% of eligible people received knee replacement surgery after 18 months of follow up.

Conclusions: There is an important unmet need in older people, with significant age, sex, geographical, and deprivation inequalities in levels of need and access to services. The use of waiting list numbers as a performance indicator is perverse for this procedure. There is urgent need to expand orthopaedic services and training.

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Selected References

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