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27-09-2018 | Osteoarthritis | Article

A comparison of one-year treatment utilization for shoulder osteoarthritis patients initiating care with non-orthopaedic physicians and orthopaedic specialists

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders

Authors: Sarah B Floyd, Cole G Chapman, Ellen Shanley, Lauren Ruffrage, Eldon Matthia, Peter Cooper, John M Brooks

Publisher: BioMed Central



In this paper we investigate patients seeking care for a new diagnosis of shoulder osteoarthritis (OA) and the association between a patient’s initial physician specialty choice and one-year surgical and conservative treatment utilization.


Using retrospective data from a single large regional healthcare system, we identified 572 individuals with a new diagnosis of shoulder OA and identified the specialty of the physician which was listed as the performing physician on the index shoulder visit. We assessed treatment utilization in the year following the index shoulder visit for patients initiating care with a non-orthopaedic physician (NOP) or an orthopaedic specialist (OS). Descriptive statistics were calculated for each group and subsequent one-year surgical and conservative treatment utilization was compared between groups.


Of the 572 patients included in the study, 474 (83%) received care from an OS on the date of their index shoulder visit, while 98 (17%) received care from a NOP. There were no differences in baseline patient age, gender, BMI or pain scores between groups. OS patients reported longer symptom duration and a higher rate of comorbid shoulder diagnoses. Patients initiating care with an OS on average received their first treatment much faster than patients initiating care with NOP (16.3 days [95% CI, 12.8, 19.7] vs. 32.3 days [95% CI, 21.0, 43.6], Z = 4.9, p < 0.01). Additionally, patients initiating care with an OS had higher odds of receiving surgery (OR = 2.65, 95% CI: 1.42, 4.95) in the year following their index shoulder visit.


Patients initiating care with an OS received treatment much faster and were treated with more invasive services over the year following their index shoulder visit. Future work should compare patient-reported outcomes across patient groups to assess whether more expensive and invasive treatments yield better outcomes for patients with shoulder OA.

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