August 2003 Bulletin

Future directions in musculoskeletal research

Report of the AAOS Research Committee Panel Studies

By Carolyn Rogers

The results of the AAOS Research Panel Studies–addressing 17 topics in musculoskeletal research–are now available in a new report: Future Directions in Musculoskeletal Research: A Summary Report of the AAOS Research Committee Panel Studies.

Four years in the making, this report is "intended to raise awareness regarding important areas of research and to guide the AAOS in its health policy and research advocacy activities over the next decade," explains Marc F. Swiontkowski, MD, chair of the AAOS Research Committee.

The report targets four key audiences:

"Expert panels" convened

Seventeen topics in musculoskeletal research were identified for this study, and expert panels–consisting of four to 16 experts each–were convened to create studies on these areas. Panel members included orthopaedic surgeons and/or PhD-level researchers considered by their peers to be experts in the given subject areas of their assigned panel.

Each panel of experts was charged with developing a report that discussed the scope of the topic, including its clinical significance and importance to public health, recent advances in treatment or knowledge and a list of important future research directions.

The recommendations and conclusions contained within each panel report represent the opinions of the expert panel members only. The studies are not consensus documents, nor are they intended as policy statements on behalf of AAOS.

20 key "research themes" identified

Upon completion of the panel reports, the research directions identified in each report were analyzed for overlap. Twenty "Musculoskeletal Research Focus Areas" emerged as a result of this analysis. These focus areas were then sorted into three groups based on the frequency of their appearance in the panel reports.

The top research themes–those cited by seven or more of the panels–are:

The second group of research themes– found in four to six panels–include:

The final grouping–identified by one to three of the panels–addresses specific conditions, such as osteoarthritis and genetic conditions; research in gender predisposition variations; disparities in musculoskeletal treatment; sports and workplace injuries; and orthopaedic workforce training and education.

Report history/development

The original AAOS Research Agenda, commonly known as the Gartland Report, was created in the early 1980s. In 1999, the Research Committee–under the leadership of Michael G. Ehrlich, MD–initiated this updated and expanded report. The project continued into the chairmanships of Gary E. Friedlaender, MD, and Dr. Swiontkowski. After many months of planning, writing and editing, Dr. Swiontkowski is credited with the completion of the project.

Panel report editors include Dr. Swiontkowski, Thomas A. Einhorn, MD; David A. Heck, MD; and James D. Heckman, MD.

The panel studies were reviewed and revised extensively before being finalized in January 2003. The final report–Future Directions in Musculoskeletal Research: A Summary Report of the AAOS Research Committee Panel Studies–was approved by the Council on Research and by the AAOS Board of Directors in June 2003.

Copies of the report are now being distributed to the Council of Musculoskeletal Specialty Societies, various committees within the AAOS, staff at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation.

Resource for education; advocacy

The AAOS Washington Office staff plans to use this document extensively in their advocacy efforts. The report already has served as source material for preparing testimony on the need for increased funding for musculoskeletal research. It also served as source material in the preparation of the Unified Research Agenda research priorities. (View article for related story.)

"The final document has been placed on the Internet, where it will likely be utilized by orthopaedic researchers, students and even the general public," Dr. Swiontkowski reports.

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