Open Access Research article

Relevant baseline characteristics for describing patients with knee osteoarthritis: results from a Delphi survey

Lukas M Wildi1*, Anita Hensel2, Maria Wertli2, Beat A Michel1 and Johann Steurer2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Rheumatology, University Hospital of Zurich, Gloriastrasse 25, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland

2 Department of Internal Medicine, Horten Centre for Patient-oriented Research and Knowledge Transfer, University of Zurich, Pestalozzistr, 24, 8091 Zurich, Switzerland

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:369  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-369

Published: 30 December 2013



Inclusion/exclusion criteria and baseline characteristics are essential for assessing the applicability of trial results to a given patient and the comparability of study populations for meta-analyses. This Delphi survey aimed to generate a set of baseline characteristics for describing patients with knee osteoarthritis enrolled in clinical studies.


Survey participants comprised clinical experts (n = 23; mean age 54 y; from 4 continents) that had authored at least two randomized trials on knee osteoarthritis. First, given a prepared list of baseline patient characteristics, the experts were asked to add characteristics they considered important for assessing comparability of patient populations in different trials that evaluated the efficacy of non-surgical interventions for treating knee osteoarthritis. Next, they were asked to rate the importance of each characteristic, on a scale of 0 (not important) to 10 (highly important), according to three outcome categories: pain, function, and structure.


Participants identified 121 baseline characteristics. A rating ≥7 points was assigned to 39 characteristics (e.g., age, depression, global knee pain, daily dose of pain killers, Kellgren-Lawrence grading); of these, 20 were related to pain, 15 to function, and 23 to structural outcomes. Global knee pain was the only baseline characteristic that fulfilled among experts the predefined consensus criteria.


Experts identified a large number of characteristics for describing patients with knee osteoarthritis. Disagreement and uncertainty prevailed over the relevance of these characteristics. Our findings justified further efforts to define appropriate, broadly acceptable sets of baseline characteristics for describing patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Knee osteoarthritis; Baseline characteristics; Inclusion criteria; Comparability; Applicability; Clinical trial