Discover a world of educational opportunities to support your lifelong learning
Practice Experience Program is a self-directed education program designed to support non vocationally registered doctors on their pathway to RACGP Fellowship
RACGP offer courses and events to further develop the knowledge you need to develop your GP career
2022 RACGP curriculum and syllabus
for Australian general practice
The Abuse and violence: working with our patients in general practice provides the best-available current evidence for GPs
Stay up-to-date with the latest information and resources on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Download the Standards for general practice (5th edition) - a benchmark for quality care and risk management in Australian general practices
Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for general practitioners
Advice and guidelines for GPs and practice teams to help protect general practice information systems
Video consultations can provide convenient and accessible healthcare delivery
Read all of the RACGP reports and submissions on various healthcare topics
Read all of the RACGP position statements on various healthcare topics
Join our RACGP Facebook groups
The RACGP website is undergoing scheduled maintenance on Tuesday, 5th December 2023 from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM AEDT. During this time, the application will be unavailable. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Guideline for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis
It may be appropriate to offer an intra-articular corticosteroid injection for some people with knee and/or hip osteoarthritis for short-term pain relief. Clinicians need to be cautious of the potential harms of repeated use.
Conditional for recommendation
Corticosteroids are medications that mimic the effects of the hormone cortisol, which is produced naturally by the adrenal glands. Cortisol helps to lower the levels of prostaglandins and downplays the interaction between certain white blood cells involved in the immune response. Corticosteroid injections are frequently used for the short-term symptom relief of a flare of joint symptoms or when a rapid reduction in symptoms is required.
The studies upon which the recommendation is based were at serious risk of bias and generally small in size. The overall quality of the evidence was judged to be low to very low (Appendix 5 of the Guideline for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis: Technical document). Beneficial effects on knee pain and function were demonstrated at up to six weeks. These findings were not present when follow-up was extended to three months.
For hip pain, the clinical benefits were demonstrated for up to 12 weeks; however, there is lack of long-term data. In addition, considering the complexity of the hip joint, image guidance would be required, which would further add to the costs.
The working group considered intra-articular corticosteroid injections can be used as an adjunct to core treatment for short-term reduction of moderate-to-severe pain in people with knee or hip OA.
We suggest not offering viscosupplementation injection for people with knee hip OA.
Conditional against recommendation
We do not recommend offering viscosupplementation injection for people with hip OA.
Strong against recommendation
Hyaluronate is a naturally occurring component of cartilage and synovial fluid, and responsible for the rheologic properties of synovial fluid, enabling it to act as a lubricant or shock absorber. In OA, synovial hyaluronate is depolymerised and cleared at higher rates than normal. The therapeutic goal of intraarticular hyaluronate administration is to provide and maintain intraarticular lubrication. This in turn increases the viscoelastic properties of synovial fluid, and is sometimes termed ‘viscosupplementation’. It has also been reported that hyaluronate exerts anti-inflammatory, analgesic and possibly chondroprotective effects on the articular cartilage and joint synovium.119
The major analyses upon which the recommendation is based were considered to be at serious risk of bias, but the large number of studies analysed involved, in total, a large number of participants. For knee pain, function and adverse events, the overall quality of the evidence was judged to be moderate. Despite some inconsistency on the conclusions among the analyses, a positive effect, albeit small and not clinically relevant, was demonstrated for pain and function.
The recommendation for hip OA is based on three small randomised controlled trials (RCTs), which were judged to not be at serious risk of bias (Appendix 5 of the Guideline for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis: Technical document). The overall quality of evidence was judged to low. No effect on pain nor function was demonstrated, and the risk of total and serious adverse events and local reactions was greater in the viscosupplementation group. In addition, for a hip injection, image guidance would be required, further adding to complexity and cost. However, the increased risk of total and serious adverse events concerned the working group, and when cost and the complexity of the intervention were taken into account, a conditional against recommendation was agreed upon.
Minor side effects include pain at the injection site (1–33%), local joint pain and swelling (<1–30%), and local skin reactions (3–21%). Pseudoseptic reactions (1–3%), which are characterised by inflammation and swelling of the joint that are not caused by infection, can be severe and may require further medical treatment. These reactions usually occur after sensitisation with the second or third injection of a series, or with a repeat treatment course. True joint infections have also been reported, but these appear to be rare.120
We are unable to recommend either for or against the use of PRP injection for people with knee and/or hip OA.
Conditional (neutral) recommendation
PRP is an autologous concentration of a high number of platelets in a small volume of plasma, and it is prepared by centrifugation of blood. Platelets contain significant amounts of cytokines and growth factors, which are capable of stimulating cellular growth, vascularisation, proliferation, tissue regeneration and collagen synthesis.
The studies upon which the recommendation is based were at serious risk of bias and inconsistency, and were generally small in size (Appendix 5 of the Guideline for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis: Technical document). The overall quality of the evidence was judged to be very low. Beneficial effects on both knee pain and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) function were demonstrated at six months. With the concern of potential reporting bias and low-quality data, the beneficial effects are likely to be overinflated. In addition, there is no consensus on eligible participant selection, number and frequency of injections, preparation technique, or appropriate platelet concentration,121 leading to large variations in the design of PRP trials.
No RCT was conducted in hip OA. However, during working group discussions, it was suggested that the mechanism of action should be no different in hip OA. Therefore, the findings might be transferrable to hip OA, but with a particular caution in terms of the complexity of the hip joint.
The cost of PRP treatment is high, and additional equipment might be required for the preparation and administration.
Most common treatment-related adverse events were local swelling and transient regional pain. PRP did not increase the risk of adverse events, compared with hyaluronic acid and saline according to other systematic reviews.122
We do not recommend offering stem cell therapy for people with knee and/or hip OA.
Stem cells are cells that have the ability to divide and develop into many different types of cell in the body, and can be categorised as pluripotent and multipotent. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a common form of multipotent cells that may offer an alternative to cartilage repair techniques that is not hampered by availability and donor site morbidity. MSCs can be isolated from adipose tissue, bone marrow, synovial tissue and other sources.
The two studies upon which the recommendation is based were at very serious risk of bias and were small in size. The overall quality of the evidence was judged to be low to very low. Beneficial effects on pain and function were demonstrated at up to six months. The between-group differences reported for pain and function appeared to be remarkably good (Appendix 5 of the Guideline for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis: Technical document). As they deviate significantly from those of other successful interventions, replication is required in high quality, large RCTs before a more favourable recommendation can be considered.
Consistent with a recent position statement from the Australian College of Sports and Exercise Physicians, stem cell administration should be part of a rigorously designed study and the priority for individual health and welfare.123
No serious adverse events were reported in those trials. There are two groups reporting minor adverse events, including mild pain and effusion after the injections, which persisted for no more than seven days.124,125
We suggest not offering dextrose prolotherapy for people with knee and/or hip OA.
Hypertonic dextrose injection, also termed as prolotherapy, is an injection-based treatment used for a variety of painful chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions. The core practice principle of prolotherapy is injection of relatively small volumes (0.5–6 ml) of an irritant solution, usually hypertonic dextrose, at painful ligament and tendon attachments, and in adjacent joint spaces. The hypothesised mechanisms for pain relief include stimulation of local healing, reduction of joint instability through the strengthening of stretched or torn ligaments and stimulation of cellular proliferation.
The recommendation is based on the evidence of only one small RCT of low quality. The risk of bias in this study was not determined to be serious. No clinically significant effects were found for pain at 24 and 52 weeks follow-up. In terms of function, no clinically significant effects were found for pain at 24 weeks, but a marginally significant effect was recorded at 52 weeks (Appendix 5 of the Guideline for the management of knee and hip osteoarthritis: Technical document). Furthermore, high-quality RCTs with low risk of bias and specifically for hip OA are required.
As prolotherapy is relatively cheap and accessible, it is likely to be injudiciously used. The working group agreed on a ‘Conditional against recommendation’.
The study reported self-limited bruises after dextrose (n = 3) and saline (n = 5) injections. This was an expected side effect and deemed to be of minimal clinical relevance because of its transient nature. No serious adverse events were reported; however, this may be because the study sample size is not large enough to detect uncommon adverse events.126
Did you know you can now log your CPD with a click of a button?
Administrative-report.pdf (PDF 2.76 MB)
Algorithm-Holistic-assessment-diagnosis-and-management-of-knee-and-hip-osteoarthritis.pdf (PDF 0.05 MB)
Guideline-for-the-management-of-knee-and-hip-osteoarthritis-2nd-ed-Appendix-1.pdf (PDF 0.04 MB)
Guideline-for-the-management-of-knee-and-hip-osteoarthritis-2nd-ed-Appendix-2.pdf (PDF 0.05 MB)
Implementation-plan.pdf (PDF 1.79 MB)
Public-consultation-summary.pdf (PDF 0.29 MB)
Technical-document.pdf (PDF 5.79 MB)