Long-term clinical and economic outcomes of a short-term physical activity program in knee osteoarthritis patients

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2020 Jun;28(6):735-743. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2020.01.017. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


Objective: Physical activity (PA) in the US knee osteoarthritis (OA) population is low, despite well-established health benefits. PA program implementation is often stymied by sustainability concerns. We sought to establish parameters that would make a short-term (3-year efficacy) PA program a cost-effective component of long-term OA care.

Method: Using a validated computer microsimulation (Osteoarthritis Policy Model), we examined the long-term clinical (e.g., comorbidities averted), quality of life (QoL), and economic impacts of a 3-year PA program, based upon the SPARKS (Studying Physical Activity Rewards after Knee Surgery) Trial, for inactive knee OA patients. We determined the cost, efficacy, and impact of PA on QoL and medical costs that would make a PA program a cost-effective addition to OA care.

Results: Among the 14 million with knee OA in the US, >4 million are inactive. Participation of 10% in the modeled PA program could save 200 cases of cardiovascular disease, 400 cases of diabetes, and 6,800 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). The program had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of $16,100/QALY. Tripling PA program cost ($860/year) raised the ICER to $108,300/QALY; varying QoL benefits from PA yielded ICERs of $8,800/QALY-$99,900/QALY; varying background cost savings from PA did not qualitatively impact ICERs. Offering the PA program to any adults with knee OA (not only inactive) yielded $31,000/QALY.

Conclusion: A PA program with 3-year efficacy in the knee OA population carried favorable long-term clinical and economic benefits. These results offer justification for policymakers and payers considering a PA intervention incorporated into knee OA care.

Keywords: Cost-effectiveness; Osteoarthritis; Physical activity; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / economics*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome