Documentation of medical necessity for arthroplasty has come under scrutiny by Medicare. In some jurisdictions three months of physical therapy prior to arthroplasty has been mandated. The purpose of this study was to determine the efficacy and cost of this policy to treat advanced osteoarthritis. A systematic review was performed to assimilate efficacy data for physical therapy in patients with advanced osteoarthritis. The number of arthroplasties performed annually was obtained to calculate cost. Evidence-based studies documenting the efficacy of physical therapy in treating advanced arthritis are lacking with a potential cost of 36-68 million dollars. Physical therapy mandates by administrative contractors are not only ineffective but are costly without patient benefit. Medical necessity documentation should be driven by orthopedists not retroactively by Medicare contractors.
Keywords: Medicare; osteoarthritis; physical therapy mandates.
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