Objective: To determine the cost-effectiveness of arthroscopic surgery in addition to non-operative treatments compared with non-operative treatments alone in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA). Design, setting and participants: We conducted an economic evaluation alongside a single-centre, randomised trial among patients with symptomatic, radiographic knee OA (KL grade ≥2). Interventions: Patients received arthroscopic debridement and partial resection of degenerative knee tissues in addition to optimised non-operative therapy, or optimised non-operative therapy only. Main outcome measures: Direct and indirect costs were collected prospectively over the 2-year study period. The effectiveness outcomes were the Western Ontario McMaster Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). Cost-effectiveness was estimated using the net benefit regression framework considering a range of willingness-to-pay values from the Canadian public payer and societal perspectives. We calculated incremental cost-effectiveness ratios and conducted sensitivity analyses using the extremes of the 95% CIs surrounding mean differences in effect between groups. Results: 168 patients were included. Patients allocated to arthroscopy received partial resection and debridement of degenerative meniscal tears (81%) and/or articular cartilage (97%). There were no significant differences between groups in use of nonoperative treatments. The incremental net benefit was negative for all willingness-to-pay values. Uncertainty estimates suggest that even if willing to pay $400 000 to achieve a clinically important improvement in WOMAC score, or ≥$50 000 for an additional QALY, there is ≤20% probability that the addition of arthroscopy is cost-effective compared with nonoperative therapies only. Our sensitivity analysis suggests that even when assuming the largest treatment effect, the addition of arthroscopic surgery is not economically attractive compared with nonoperative treatments only. Conclusions: Arthroscopic debridement of degenerative articular cartilage and resection of degenerative meniscal tears in addition to nonoperative treatments for knee OA is not an economically attractive treatment option compared with non-operative treatment only, regardless of willingness-to-pay value.
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