Variation in Offer of Operative Treatment to Patients With Trapeziometacarpal Osteoarthritis

Published:December 19, 2019DOI:


      Operative treatment of trapeziometacarpal osteoarthritis (TMC OA) is discretionary. There is substantial surgeon-to-surgeon variation in offers of surgery. This study assessed factors associated with variation in recommendation of operative treatment to patients with TMC OA. Secondarily, we studied factors associated with preferred operative technique and surgeon demographic factors variability in recommendation for operative treatment.


      We invited all hand surgeon members of the Science of Variation Group to review 16 scenarios of patients with TMC OA and asked the surgeons whether they would recommend surgical treatment for each patient and, if yes, which surgical technique they would offer (trapeziectomy, trapeziectomy with ligament reconstruction and/or tendon interposition, joint replacement, or arthrodesis). Scenarios varied in pain intensity, relief after injection, radiographic severity, and psychosocial symptoms.


      Patient characteristics associated with greater likelihood to recommend surgical treatment were substantial pain, a previous injection that did not relieve pain, radiograph with severe TMC OA, and few symptoms of depression. Practice region was the only factor associated with preferred surgical technique and trapeziectomy with ligament reconstruction and/or tendon interposition the most commonly recommended treatment. There was low agreement among surgeons regarding treatment recommendations.


      The notable variation in offers of operative treatment for TMC OA is largely associated with variable attention to subjective factors. Future studies might address the relative influence of surgeon incentives and beliefs, objective pathophysiology, and subjective patient factors on variation in surgeon recommendations.

      Clinical relevance

      Surgeons’ awareness of the potential influence of subjective factors on their recommendations might contribute to efforts to ensure that patient choices reflect what matters most to them and are not based on misconceptions.

      Key words

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