Surgery and medication not always the answer for Osteoarthritis

New guidelines released by the RACGP advise that surgery should be considered as the last resort for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis and that exercise is the most effective treatment.


Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President-elect Dr Harry Nespolon noted the need for improved guidelines to cater for Australia’s ageing population, and increasing rates of obesity, with 12% of the population expected to suffer from osteoarthritis by 2030. More than 100,000 Australians receive hip and knee replacements each year.


“After comprehensive research and review, it’s important the medical profession is updated on how best to approach the growing concern of osteoarthritis,” said Dr Harry Nespolon.


“When it comes to management of osteoarthritis, every patient is different, but exercise is the new front runner when it comes to best management, ahead of previous invasive recommendations of surgery and medications.


“When reviewing the statistics, it is alarming how many surgeries may have been completed unnecessarily and with little gain.


“Medication and surgery may still be used for serious cases, but many cases can be assisted with diet and lifestyle changes.


“For many of our patients, the change in direction of management of this illness will provide the opportunity for people to live healthy and active lifestyles for years longer than before,” said Dr Harry Nespolon.


The new guidelines make the below changes to how people may experience their treatment:

  • An emphasis on exercise and weight management for patients suffering with knee and hip osteoarthritis
  • Strong advice to turn away from using opioids in the treatment of the condition
  • Knee replacement surgery should only be considered when a patient’s symptoms fail to respond to non-surgical treatments
  • A reduction in the use of diagnostic imaging.


The Guidelines for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis will be rolled out to GPs across the Australia from 29 August 2018.


The new guidelines have been endorsed by the National Health Medical Research Council and included a working group of leading clinicians, consumer organisations and industry experts.


1 September 2018.