Do patient race and sex change surgeon recommendations for TKA?

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BACKGROUND: Prior investigations have suggested that physician-related factors may contribute to differential use of TKA among women and ethnic minorities. We sought to evaluate the effect of surgeon bias on recommendations for TKA.

QUESTIONS/PURPOSE: Using an experimental approach with standardized patient scenarios, we sought to evaluate surgeon recommendations regarding TKA, specifically to determine whether recommendations for TKA are influenced by (1) patient race, and (2) patient sex.

METHODS: We developed four computerized scenarios for all combinations of race (white or black) and sex (male or female) for otherwise similar patients with end-stage knee osteoarthritis. Patients gave an orthopaedic history of 2 years worsening pain with decreased functional status and failure of oral antiinflammatory medications and corticosteroid intraarticular injections. Orthopaedic surgeons attending the 2012 annual meetings of the New York State Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons were recruited for the study. Surgeons passing an open recruitment table at each meeting were asked to participate. Of the 1111 surgeons in attendance at either meeting, 113 (10.2%) participated in the study. All participants viewed the "control" patient's story (white male) and were randomized to view one of the three "experimental" scenarios (white female, black male, black female). After viewing each scenario, the participants were anonymously asked whether they would recommend TKA. An a priori power analysis showed that 112 participants were needed to detect a 15% difference in the likelihood of recommending surgery for white versus nonwhite patients in the test scenarios evaluated with 90% power at a level of significance of 0.05.

RESULTS: Of the 39 surgeons who viewed the white male plus black female scenario, there were 33 (85%) concordant responses (TKA offered to both patients) and six discordant responses (TKA offered to only one of the patients), with no effect of patient race and sex (p = 0.99). Of the 37 surgeons who viewed the white male plus black male scenario, there were 33 (89%) concordant responses and four discordant responses, with no effect of patient race (p = 0.32). Of the 37 surgeons who viewed the white male plus white female scenario, there were 30 (77%) concordant responses and seven discordant responses, with no effect of patient sex (p = 0.71).

CONCLUSION: After orthopaedic surgeons viewed video scenarios of patients with end-stage knee osteoarthritis, patient race and sex were not associated with a different likelihood of a surgical recommendation. Our findings support the notion that patient race and sex may be less influential on decision making when there are strong clinical data to support a decision. Physician bias may have a greater effect on decision making in situations where the indications for surgery are less clear.





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Medicine and Health Sciences




Department of Medicine

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