Background: While the clinical value of routine pathologic examination of tissues removed during orthopaedic procedures has not been determined, limited cost-effectiveness and a low prevalence of findings that alter patient management have been previously demonstrated with arthroscopy. The purpose of this study was to examine the clinical value and cost-effectiveness of routine histological examination of knee arthroscopy specimens.
Methods: Retrospective chart analysis of 3797 consecutive knee arthroscopies by two surgeons from 2004 to 2013 at three affiliated hospitals within one health-care system was undertaken. Pathology reports regarding tissue removed during partial meniscectomies and anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions were reviewed to determine if the results altered patient care. The total costs of histological examination were estimated in 2012-adjusted U.S. dollars. The cost per health effect was determined by calculating the cost per discrepant and discordant diagnosis.
Results: The prevalence of concordant diagnoses was 99.3% (3769 of 3797), the prevalence of discrepant diagnoses was 0.7% (twenty-seven of 3797), and the prevalence of discordant diagnoses was 0.026% (one of 3797). The total cost of histological examinations was estimated to be $371,810. The total cost of the pathology cost per discrepant diagnosis was $13,771, and the cost per discordant diagnosis was $371,810.
Conclusions: Routine pathological examination of surgical specimens from patients undergoing knee arthroscopy had limited cost-effectiveness because of the low prevalence of findings that altered patient management. Histological examination of surgical specimens from arthroscopic knee surgery did not alter patient care and increased costs. We suggest that gross and histological examination of tissue removed during knee arthroscopy should be done at the discretion of the orthopaedic surgeon rather than being mandatory.
1Insall Scott Kelly Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, 210 East 64th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10065