NORTH Foundation – Osteoarthritis Management Project

The NORTH Foundation (formerly Kolling Foundation) raises funds to help provide support for urgently needed equipment, patient care services, capital works and essential medical research at Royal North Shore, Ryde and Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospitals, as well as the Kolling Institute of Medical Research.

Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic joint disease in Australia and one of the leading causes of pain and disability. Despite the tremendous burden this disease places on individuals, families, healthcare systems and society, the care consumers receive is often fragmented and inappropriate.

This project, led by Professor David Hunter and Dr Jillian Eyles, aims to implement and assess the effects of an intervention designed to reduce the number of Australians with osteoarthritis undergoing arthroscopic knee procedures in favour of evidence based non-surgical management programs.

Clinical practice guidelines strongly recommend against the use of arthroscopic knee procedures (or key-hole surgeries), such as washouts and removal of torn cartilage, in people who have knee osteoarthritis. Despite this, more than 30,000 people with osteoarthritis are treated inappropriately with arthroscopic knee procedures in Australia each year. At an average cost of $5000 per procedure (includes hospital, surgeon, unaesthetic costs) this equates to approximately $150 million per year. This concern was highlighted in the National Osteoarthritis Strategy (2018) as a problem needing to be addressed, but at this point rates of surgery are declining very slowly.

This project aims to raise orthopaedic surgeons’ and relevant health practitioners’ awareness and use of non-surgical treatment options, saving patients intervening operations as well as reducing hospital health care costs.