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The authors declare no competing commercial or non-commercial interests.
RM designed the study and its data collection forms, screened and reviewed studies and extracted the data, and wrote the manuscript. RT contributed to writing the manuscript and its design. OC screened and extracted the data. JB contributed to writing the manuscript. MD contributed to designing the study and writing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Documented age, gender, race and socio-economic disparities in total joint arthroplasty (TJA), suggest that those who need the surgery may not receive it, and present a challenge to explain the causes of unmet need. It is not clear whether doctors limit treatment opportunities to patients, nor is it known the effect that patient beliefs and expectations about the operation, including their paid work status and retirement plans, have on the decision to undergo TJA. Identifying socio-economic and other determinants of demand would inform the design of effective and efficient health policy. This review was conducted to identify the factors that lead patients in need to undergo TJA.
An electronic search of the Embase and Medline (Ovid) bibliographic databases conducted in September 2011 identified studies in the English language that reported on factors driving patients in need of hip or knee replacement to undergo surgery. The review included reports of elective surgery rates in eligible patients or, controlling for disease severity, in general subjects, and stated clinical experts’ and patients’ opinions on suitability for or willingness to undergo TJA. Quantitative and qualitative studies were reviewed, but quantitative studies involving fewer than 20 subjects were excluded. The quality of individual studies was assessed on the basis of study design (i.e., prospective versus retrospective), reporting of attrition, adjustment for and report of confounding effects, and reported measures of need (self-reported versus doctor-assessed). Reported estimates of effect on the probability of surgery from analyses adjusting for confounders were summarised in narrative form and synthesised in odds ratio (OR) forest plots for individual determinants.
The review included 26 quantitative studies−23 on individuals’ decisions or views on having the operation and three about health professionals’ opinions-and 10 qualitative studies. Ethnic and racial disparities in TJA use are associated with socio-economic access factors and expectations about the process and outcomes of surgery. In the United States, health insurance coverage affects demand, including that from the Medicare population, for whom having supplemental Medicaid coverage increases the likelihood of undergoing TJA. Patients with post-secondary education are more likely to demand hip or knee surgery than those without it (range of OR 0.87-2.38). Women are as willing to undergo surgery as men, but they are less likely to be offered surgery by specialists than men with the same need. There is considerable variation in patient demand with age, with distinct patterns for hip and knee. Paid employment appears to increase the chances of undergoing surgery, but no study was found that investigated the relationship between retirement plans and demand for TJA. There is evidence of substantial geographical variation in access to joint replacement within the territory covered by a public national health system, which is unlikely to be explained by differences in preference or unmeasured need alone. The literature tends to focus on associations, rather than testing of causal relationships, and is insufficient to assess the relative importance of determinants.
Patients’ use of hip and knee replacement is a function of their socio-economic circumstances, which reinforce disparities by gender and race originating in the doctor-patient interaction. Willingness to undergo surgery declines steeply after the age of retirement, at the time some eligible patients may lower their expectations of health status achievement. There is some evidence that paid employment independently increases the likelihood of operation. The relative contribution of variations in surgical decision making to differential access across regions within countries deserves further research that controls for clinical need and patient lifestyle preferences, including retirement decisions. Evidence on this question will become increasingly relevant for service planning and policy design in societies with ageing populations.