Variation in orthopaedic surgeons' perceptions about the indications for rotator cuff surgery

Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, New York, United States
The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (Impact Factor: 4.31). 10/2005; 87(9):1978-84. DOI: 10.2106/JBJS.D.02944
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated substantial variations in per capita rates of many surgical procedures, including rotator cuff repair. The purpose of the current study was to characterize orthopaedic surgeons' attitudes concerning medical decision-making about rotator cuff surgery and to investigate the associations between these beliefs and reported surgical volumes.
A survey was mailed to randomly selected orthopaedic surgeons listed in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons directory. Only individuals who had treated patients for a rotator cuff tear, or had referred patients for such treatment, within the previous year were asked to complete the two-page survey. The survey comprised fifteen questions regarding clinical opinion, including four regarding hypothetical cases. Clinical agreement was defined as >80% of the respondents answering similarly.
Of the 1100 surveys that were mailed, 539 were returned (a response rate of 49%). Of the 539 respondents, 316 (58.6%) had treated or referred patients with a rotator cuff tear in the previous year. There was a significant negative correlation between the surgeon's estimation of the failure rate of cuff repairs in the United States and that surgeon's procedure volume (r = -0.21, p = 0.0003), indicating that surgeons with a lower procedure volume are more pessimistic about the results of surgery than are those with a higher procedure volume. Arthroscopic, mini-open, and open cuff repairs were preferred by 14.5%, 46.2%, and 36.6% of the respondents, respectively. Surgeons who performed a higher volume of procedures were less likely to perform open surgery (p < 0.0001). There was clinical agreement regarding only four of the nine clinical questions and none of the four questions about the hypothetical vignettes.
We found significant variation in surgical decision-making and a lack of clinical agreement among orthopaedic surgeons about rotator cuff surgery. There was a positive correlation between the volume of procedures performed by the surgeon and the surgeon's perception of outcome, with surgeons who had a higher procedure volume being more enthusiastic about rotator cuff surgery than those who had a lower procedure volume.

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