OBJECTIVE: Considerable variation in total hip replacement and total knee replacement (THR/TKR) between regions has been described. The aim of this study was to explore geographical variation in THR and TKR in Germany and to analyse potentially explanatory variables.
METHOD: We used data of Germany's largest statutory health insurer. Between 2005 and 2009 451,108 THR and 335,022 TKR were performed. Age-standardised joint replacement rates were calculated for 16 federal states and 407 counties. We performed cluster (Moran's I) and spatial error regression analyses including regional deprivation, osteoarthritis rate, urbanity and number of orthopaedic specialists as dependent variables on county level.
RESULTS: In 2009 the overall age-standardised and crude rates were 148.9 (95% CI (confidence interval) 147.6-151.1) and 290.2 for THR, and 132.5 (95% CI 131.3-133.6) and 232.7 for TKR. Between counties THR rates differed by factor 2 (106.1-215.8) and showed significant clusters with high utilisation in South and Northwest Germany. TKR rates differed by factor 3.2 (69.1-219.5) and were also high in South Germany whereas almost all areas in East Germany showed low replacement rates. Differences were pronounced when restricting the analysis to cases with an indication of osteoarthritis. All tested predictors could be identified as significant explanatory variables (each P < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: This study proofed considerable and consistent geographic variation of THR and TKR in Germany. Thereby relevant explanatory factors were identified. These results may foster the discussion and future research in health services which should include areas of patients' and doctors' expectation, financial aspects and an outcome-based definition of appropriate supply.