Levels of Urgency for Orthopaedic Procedures: Reliability and Adoption of a Consensus-driven Classification

Edward Y. Cheng, David M. Matson, Kyle D. Morgenstern, Julie Agel, Paul Hoogervorst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Introduction:The current COVID-19 disease pandemic has delayed nonurgent orthopaedic procedures to adequately care for those affected by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, resulting in a backlog in orthopaedic surgical care. As the capacity for orthopaedic surgeries expands or contracts, allocation of limited resources in a manner that adequately reflects medical necessity and urgency is paramount. An orthopaedic surgery-specific prioritization schema with proven reliability is lacking. The primary aim of this study was to assess the reliability of a newly developed prioritization list used for the phased reinstatement of orthopaedic surgical procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic and afterward. The secondary aim was to report its implementation.Methods:A consensus-based, orthopaedic surgery-specific, tiered prioritization list reflecting various levels of urgency was created by a committee of orthopaedic surgeons covering all subspecialties and representing academic, multispecialty, and private community practices. Reliability was tested for 63 randomized cases representing all orthopaedic subspecialties. Four raters evaluated the cases independently at two separate time points, at least one week apart. Fleiss kappa was used to assess intrarater and interrater agreement. Implementation were assessed by surveying both surgeons and the surgery scheduling administrative personnel at each surgical facility within a large health system for any adoption issues.Results:Case distributions within tiers 1, 2, 3, and 4 were 35%, 14%, 27%, and 24%, respectively. Interrater agreement ranged from 0.63 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.57 to 0.69) to 0.72 (95% CI 0.66 to 0.78) for the ratings. Intrarater reliability ranged from 0.62 to 1.0. The highest levels of agreement were in tiers 1, 4, and the subspecialties oncology and foot/ankle. The time from development to full scale adoption and implementation by all orthopaedic surgeons was rapid.Discussion:This tiered prioritization list for orthopaedic procedures is both adoptable and reliable during the phased reinstatement of procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic and afterward. Further refinements may enhance utility.Levels of Evidence:Reliability study: Level I (Evid Based Spine Care J 2014 October;5(2):166. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1394106).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1078-E1086
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study has been deemed not human research by the Institutional Review Board (STUDY00009726) and has been done in accordance with the ethical standards in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and in accordance with relevant regulations of the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Publisher Copyright:
© American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.


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