BACKGROUND: Multiple knee cartilage defect treatments are available in the United States, although the cost-efficacy of these therapies in various clinical scenarios is not well understood.
PURPOSE/HYPOTHESIS: The purpose was to determine cost-efficacy of cartilage therapies in the United States with available mid- or long-term outcomes data. The authors hypothesized that cartilage treatment strategies currently approved for commercial use in the United States will be cost-effective, as defined by a cost <$50,000 per quality-adjusted life-year over 10 years.
STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review.
METHODS: A systematic search was performed for prospective cartilage treatment outcome studies of therapies commercially available in the United States with minimum 5-year follow-up and report of pre- and posttreatment International Knee Documentation Committee subjective scores. Cost-efficacy over 10 years was determined with Markov modeling and consideration of early reoperation or revision surgery for treatment failure.
RESULTS: Twenty-two studies were included, with available outcomes data on microfracture, osteochondral autograft, osteochondral allograft (OCA), autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), and matrix-induced ACI. Mean improvement in International Knee Documentation Committee subjective scores at final follow-up ranged from 17.7 for microfracture of defects >3 cm2 to 36.0 for OCA of bipolar lesions. Failure rates ranged from <5% for osteochondral autograft for defects requiring 1 or 2 plugs to 46% for OCA of bipolar defects. All treatments were cost-effective over 10 years in the baseline model if costs were increased 50% or if failure rates were increased an additional 15%. However, if efficacy was decreased by a minimum clinically important amount, then ACI (periosteal cover) of femoral condylar lesions ($51,379 per quality-adjusted life-year), OCA of bipolar lesions ($66,255) or the patella ($66,975), and microfracture of defects >3 cm2 ($127,782) became cost-ineffective over 10 years.
CONCLUSION: Currently employed treatments for knee cartilage defects in the United States are cost-effective in most clinically acceptable applications. Microfracture is not a cost-effective initial treatment of defects >3 cm2. OCA transplantation of the patella or bipolar lesions is potentially cost-ineffective and should be used judiciously.