BACKGROUND: The concept of osteoarthritis (OA) heterogeneity is evolving and gaining renewed interest. According to this concept, distinct subtypes of OA need to be defined that will likely require recognition in research design and different approaches to clinical management. Although seemingly plausible, a wide range of views exist on how best to operationalize this concept. The current project aimed to provide consensus-based definitions and recommendations that together create a framework for conducting and reporting OA phenotype research.
METHODS: A panel of 25 members with expertise in OA phenotype research was composed. First, panel members participated in an online Delphi exercise to provide a number of basic definitions and statements relating to OA phenotypes and OA phenotype research. Second, panel members provided input on a set of recommendations for reporting on OA phenotype studies.
RESULTS: Four Delphi rounds were required to achieve sufficient agreement on 11 definitions and statements. OA phenotypes were defined as subtypes of OA that share distinct underlying pathobiological and pain mechanisms and their structural and functional consequences. Reporting recommendations pertaining to the study characteristics, study population, data collection, statistical analysis, and appraisal of OA phenotype studies were provided.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides a number of consensus-based definitions and recommendations relating to OA phenotypes. The resulting framework is intended to facilitate research on OA phenotypes and increase combined efforts to develop effective OA phenotype classification. Success in this endeavor will hopefully translate into more effective, differentiated OA management that will benefit a multitude of OA patients.