Total knee arthroplasty is an effective and cost efficient procedure that improves the quality of life for patients with end stage knee arthritis. With the prevalence of arthritis expected to increase with the aging of the population, the demand for total knee arthroplasty will increase substantially. We examined current indications for total knee arthroplasty by reviewing articles extracted from a comprehensive Med-line search. We studied the indications for proceeding with a total knee arthroplasty, the indications for referring a patient for a total knee arthroplasty, and the contraindications among orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatologists, and primary care providers. We evaluated 27-42 different patient factors. “Pain not responsive to drug therapy” was the only factor with consensus for total knee arthroplasty. “Major psychiatric disorder, including dementia” was the only contraindication to total knee arthroplasty that had a consensus. The lack of consensus within orthopaedics and across specialties likely represents a limitation in empirical data associated with total knee arthroplasty outcomes. Achieving better consensus will require conducting and disseminating better research on patient characteristics that predict the success of total knee arthroplasty.
Level of Evidence: Economic and decision analyses, level IV (analyses with no sensitivity analyses). See Guidelines for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.