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1.  Surgery versus conservative care for neck pain: a systematic review 
European Spine Journal  2012;22(1):87-95.
General practitioners refer patients with continued neck pain that do not respond well to conservative care frequently to secondary care for further assessment. Are surgical interventions to the cervical spine effective when compared to conservative care for patients with neck pain?
Systematic review.
The search strategy outlined by the Cochrane Back Review Group (CBRG) was followed. The primary search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CENTRAL, and PEDro up to June 2011. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials (CCTs) of adults with neck pain, which evaluated at least one clinically relevant primary outcome measure (e.g. pain, functional status, recovery), were included. In addition, treatments had to include surgery and conservative care. Two authors independently assessed risk of bias using the criteria recommended by the CBRG and extracted the data. The quality of the evidence was rated using the GRADE method.
Patients included had neck pain with or without radiculopathy or myelopathy. In total, three RCTs and six CCTs were identified comparing different surgical interventions with conservative care, of which one had a low risk of bias. Overall there is very low quality of evidence available on the effectiveness of surgery compared to conservative care in neck pain patients showing overall no differences.
Most studies on surgical techniques comparing these to conservative care showed a high risk of bias. The benefit of surgery over conservative care is not clearly demonstrated.
PMCID: PMC3540296  PMID: 23104514
Systematic review; Randomised controlled trials; Surgery; Conservative care
2.  The NLstart2run study: health effects of a running promotion program in novice runners, design of a prospective cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:685.
Running is associated with desirable lifestyle changes. Therefore several initiatives have been undertaken to promote running. Exact data on the health effects as a result of participating in a short-term running promotion program, however, is scarce. One important reason for dropout from a running program is a running-related injury (RRI). The incidence of RRIs is high, especially in novice runners. Several studies examined potential risk factors for RRIs, however, due to the often underpowered studies it is not possible to reveal the complex mechanism leading to an RRI yet.
The primary objectives are to determine short- and long-term health effects of a nationwide “Start to Run” program and to identify determinants for RRIs in novice runners. Secondary objectives include examining reasons and determinants for dropout, medical consumption and economical consequences of RRIs as a result of a running promotion program.
The NLstart2run study is a multi-center prospective cohort study with a follow-up at 6, 12, 24 and 52 weeks. All participants that sign up for the Start to Run program in 2013, which is offered by the Dutch Athletics Federation, will be asked to participate in the study.
During the running program a digital running log will be completed by the participants every week to administer exposure and running related pain. After the running program the log will be completed every second week. An RRI is defined as any musculoskeletal ailment of the lower extremity or back that the participant attributed to running and hampers running ability for at least one week.
The NLstart2run study will provide insight into the short- and long-term health effects as a result of a short-term running promotion program. Reasons and determinants for dropout from a running promotion program will be examined as well. The study will result in several leads for future RRI prevention and as a result minimize dropout due to injury. This information may increase the effectiveness of future running promotion programs and will thereby contribute positively to public health.
Trial registration
The Netherlands National Trial Register NTR3676. The NTR is part of the WHO Primary Registries.
PMCID: PMC3849042  PMID: 23890182
3.  Individual patient data meta-analysis of trials investigating the effectiveness of intra-articular glucocorticoid injections in patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis: an OA Trial Bank protocol for a systematic review 
Systematic Reviews  2013;2:54.
Based on small to moderate effect sizes for the wide range of symptomatic treatments in osteoarthritis (OA), and on the heterogeneity of OA patients, treatment guidelines for OA have stressed the need for research on clinical predictors of response to different treatments. A meta-analysis to quantify the effect modified by the predictors using individual patient data (IPD) is suggested. The initiative to collect and analyze IPD in OA research is commenced by the OA Trial Bank. The study aims are therefore: to evaluate the efficacy of intra-articular glucocorticoids for knee or hip OA in specific subgroups of patients with severe pain and (mild) inflammatory signs, over both short-term and long-term follow-up, using IPD from existing studies; to reach consensus on the rules for cooperation in a consortium; and to develop and explore the methodological issues of meta-analysis with individual OA patient data.
For the current IPD analysis we will collect and synthesize IPD from randomized trials studying the effect of intra-articular glucocorticoid injections in patients with hip or knee OA. Subgroup analyses will be performed for the primary outcome of pain at both short-term and long-term follow-up, in the subgroups of patients with and without severe pain and with and without inflammatory signs.
This study protocol includes the first study of the OA Trial Bank, an international collaboration that initiates meta-analyses on predefined subgroups of OA patients from existing literature. This approach ensures a widely supported initiative and is therefore likely to be successful in data collection of existing trials. The collaboration developed (that is, the OA Trial Bank) may also lead to future IPD analyses on subgroups of patients with several intervention strategies applied in OA patients.
PMCID: PMC3707758  PMID: 23830482
Osteoarthritis; Individual patient data; Corticosteroid injection
4.  Trends over time in the size and quality of randomised controlled trials of interventions for chronic low-back pain 
European Spine Journal  2011;21(3):375-381.
Previous reviews of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) for low-back pain (LBP) have failed to identify any positive trend in study quality with more recent years of publication. This study aimed to identify and describe trends over time in the study design characteristics and risk of bias in chronic LBP trials performed over the past 30 years.
One fifty-seven randomised trials of interventions for chronic LBP were extracted from recently published systematic reviews. The reviews included RCTs on physical and rehabilitation interventions, injection therapy and denervation procedures, complementary and alternative therapies and pharmacological interventions for chronic LBP. Study level data were extracted and analysed for trends associated with year of publication.
Overall, the mean sample size in the RCTs was 141 (median 70; range 17–3093). There was a slight increase in the median number of risk of bias criteria fulfilled from trials published prior to 1995 to those published after 1996. The analysis showed that in more recent years RCTs of medical interventions were more likely to be successfully blinded than RCTs of non-medical interventions.
The continuing uncertainty regarding the efficacy of many interventions for chronic LBP again stresses the need for large RCTs with low risk of bias. Further research is needed into specific risks of bias within the RCTs for chronic LBP and the effect they have on the plausibility of the results.
PMCID: PMC3296855  PMID: 22037844
Back pain; Bias; Methodology; Randomised trials
5.  Determinants of (sustained) overweight and complaints in children and adolescents in primary care: the DOERAK cohort study design 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:70.
Almost half of the adult Dutch population is currently overweight and the prevalence of overweight children is rising at alarming rates as well. Obese children consult their general practitioner (GP) more often than normal weight children. The Dutch government has assigned a key role to the GP in the prevention of overweight.
The DOERAK cohort study aims to clarify differences between overweight and non-overweight children that consult the GP; are there differences in number of consultations and type and course of complaints? Is overweight associated with lower quality of life or might this be influenced by the type of complaint? What is the activity level of overweight children compared to non-overweight children? And is (sustained) overweight of children associated with parameters related to the energy balance equation?
A total of 2000 overweight (n = 500) and non-overweight children (n = 1500) aged 2 to 18 years who consult their GP, for any type of complaint in the South-West of the Netherlands are included.
At baseline, height, weight and waist circumference are measured during consultation. The number of GP consultations over the last twelve months and accompanying diagnoses are acquired from the medical file. Complaints, quality of life and parameters related to the energy balance equation are assessed with an online questionnaire children or parents fill out at home. Additionally, children or parents keep a physical activity diary during the baseline week, which is validated in a subsample (n = 100) with an activity monitor. Parents fill out a questionnaire about demographics, their own activity behaviour and perceptions on dietary habits and activity behaviour, health and weight status of their child. The physical and lifestyle behaviour questions are repeated at 6, 12 and 24 months follow-up.
The present study is a prospective observational cohort in a primary care setting.
The DOERAK cohort study is the first prospective study that investigates a large cohort of overweight and non-overweight children in primary care. The total study population is expected to be recruited by 2013, results will be available in 2015.
PMCID: PMC3437208  PMID: 22824438
6.  Surgical techniques for sciatica due to herniated disc, a systematic review 
European Spine Journal  2012;21(11):2232-2251.
Disc herniation with sciatica accounts for five percent of low-back disorders but is one of the most common reasons for spine surgery. The goal of this study was to update the Cochrane review on the effect of surgical techniques for sciatica due to disc herniation, which was last updated in 2007.
Materials and methods
In April 2011, we conducted a comprehensive search in CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PEDRO, ICL, and trial registries. We also checked the reference lists and citation tracking results of each retrieved article. Only randomized controlled trials (RCT) of the surgical management of sciatica due to disc herniation were included. Comparisons including chemonucleolysis and prevention of scar tissue or comparisons against conservative treatment were excluded. Two review authors independently selected studies, assessed risk of bias of the studies and extracted data. Quality of evidence was graded according to the GRADE approach.
Seven studies from the original Cochrane review were included and nine additional studies were found. In total, 16 studies were included, of which four had a low risk of bias. Studies showed that microscopic discectomy results in a significantly, but not clinically relevant longer operation time of 12 min (95 % CI 2–22) and shorter incision of 24 mm (95 % CI 7–40) compared with open discectomy, but did not find any clinically relevant superiority of either technique on clinical results. There were conflicting results regarding the comparison of tubular discectomy versus microscopic discectomy for back pain and surgical duration.
Due to the limited amount and quality of evidence, no firm conclusions on effectiveness of the current surgical techniques being open discectomy, microscopic discectomy, and tubular discectomy compared with each other can be drawn. Those differences in leg or back pain scores, operation time, and incision length that were found are clinically insignificant. Large, high-quality studies are needed, which examine not only effectiveness but cost-effectiveness as well.
PMCID: PMC3481105  PMID: 22814567
Herniated disc; Sciatica; Surgery; Discectomy; Systematic review
7.  Effectiveness of additional supervised exercises compared with conventional treatment alone in patients with acute lateral ankle sprains: systematic review 
Objective To summarise the effectiveness of adding supervised exercises to conventional treatment compared with conventional treatment alone in patients with acute lateral ankle sprains.
Design Systematic review.
Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cinahl, and reference screening.
Study selection Included studies were randomised controlled trials, quasi-randomised controlled trials, or clinical trials. Patients were adolescents or adults with an acute lateral ankle sprain. The treatment options were conventional treatment alone or conventional treatment combined with supervised exercises. Two reviewers independently assessed the risk of bias, and one reviewer extracted data. Because of clinical heterogeneity we analysed the data using a best evidence synthesis. Follow-up was classified as short term (up to two weeks), intermediate (two weeks to three months), and long term (more than three months).
Results 11 studies were included. There was limited to moderate evidence to suggest that the addition of supervised exercises to conventional treatment leads to faster and better recovery and a faster return to sport at short term follow-up than conventional treatment alone. In specific populations (athletes, soldiers, and patients with severe injuries) this evidence was restricted to a faster return to work and sport only. There was no strong evidence of effectiveness for any of the outcome measures. Most of the included studies had a high risk of bias, with few having adequate statistical power to detect clinically relevant differences.
Conclusion Additional supervised exercises compared with conventional treatment alone have some benefit for recovery and return to sport in patients with ankle sprain, though the evidence is limited or moderate and many studies are subject to bias.
PMCID: PMC2965125  PMID: 20978065
8.  Surgery versus conservative management of sciatica due to a lumbar herniated disc: a systematic review 
European Spine Journal  2010;20(4):513-522.
The effectiveness of surgery in patients with sciatica due to lumbar disc herniations is not without dispute. The goal of this study was to assess the effects of surgery versus conservative therapy (including epidural injections) for patients with sciatica due to lumbar disc herniation. A comprehensive search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CENTRAL, and PEDro up to October 2009. Randomised controlled trials of adults with lumbar radicular pain, which evaluated at least one clinically relevant outcome measure (pain, functional status, perceived recovery, lost days of work) were included. Two authors assessed risk of bias according to Cochrane criteria and extracted the data. In total, five studies were identified, two of which with a low risk of bias. One study compared early surgery with prolonged conservative care followed by surgery if needed; three studies compared surgery with usual conservative care, and one study compared surgery with epidural injections. Data were not pooled because of clinical heterogeneity and poor reporting of data. One large low-risk-of-bias trial demonstrated that early surgery in patients with 6–12 weeks of radicular pain leads to faster pain relief when compared with prolonged conservative treatment, but there were no differences after 1 and 2 years. Another large low-risk-of-bias trial between surgery and usual conservative care found no statistically significant differences on any of the primary outcome measures after 1 and 2 years. Future studies should evaluate who benefits more from surgery and who from conservative care.
PMCID: PMC3065612  PMID: 20949289
Sciatica; Conservative treatment; Surgery; Discectomy; Systematic review
9.  A systematic review on the effectiveness of physical and rehabilitation interventions for chronic non-specific low back pain 
European Spine Journal  2010;20(1):19-39.
Low back pain (LBP) is a common and disabling disorder in western society. The management of LBP comprises a range of different intervention strategies including surgery, drug therapy, and non-medical interventions. The objective of the present study is to determine the effectiveness of physical and rehabilitation interventions (i.e. exercise therapy, back school, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), low level laser therapy, education, massage, behavioural treatment, traction, multidisciplinary treatment, lumbar supports, and heat/cold therapy) for chronic LBP. The primary search was conducted in MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CENTRAL, and PEDro up to 22 December 2008. Existing Cochrane reviews for the individual interventions were screened for studies fulfilling the inclusion criteria. The search strategy outlined by the Cochrane Back Review Groups (CBRG) was followed. The following were included for selection criteria: (1) randomized controlled trials, (2) adult (≥18 years) population with chronic (≥12 weeks) non-specific LBP, and (3) evaluation of at least one of the main clinically relevant outcome measures (pain, functional status, perceived recovery, or return to work). Two reviewers independently selected studies and extracted data on study characteristics, risk of bias, and outcomes at short, intermediate, and long-term follow-up. The GRADE approach was used to determine the quality of evidence. In total 83 randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria: exercise therapy (n = 37), back school (n = 5), TENS (n = 6), low level laser therapy (n = 3), behavioural treatment (n = 21), patient education (n = 1), traction (n = 1), and multidisciplinary treatment (n = 6). Compared to usual care, exercise therapy improved post-treatment pain intensity and disability, and long-term function. Behavioural treatment was found to be effective in reducing pain intensity at short-term follow-up compared to no treatment/waiting list controls. Finally, multidisciplinary treatment was found to reduce pain intensity and disability at short-term follow-up compared to no treatment/waiting list controls. Overall, the level of evidence was low. Evidence from randomized controlled trials demonstrates that there is low quality evidence for the effectiveness of exercise therapy compared to usual care, there is low evidence for the effectiveness of behavioural therapy compared to no treatment and there is moderate evidence for the effectiveness of a multidisciplinary treatment compared to no treatment and other active treatments at reducing pain at short-term in the treatment of chronic low back pain. Based on the heterogeneity of the populations, interventions, and comparison groups, we conclude that there are insufficient data to draw firm conclusion on the clinical effect of back schools, low-level laser therapy, patient education, massage, traction, superficial heat/cold, and lumbar supports for chronic LBP.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1518-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3036018  PMID: 20640863
Systematic review; Exercise; Back school; TENS; Education; Multidisciplinary; Behavioural; Effectiveness of interventions; Efficacy; Low back pain; Meta-analyses; Treatment effects; Rehabilitation; Conservative
10.  Injection therapy and denervation procedures for chronic low-back pain: a systematic review 
European Spine Journal  2010;19(9):1425-1449.
Injection therapy and denervation procedures are commonly used in the management of chronic low-back pain (LBP) despite uncertainty regarding their effectiveness and safety. To provide an evaluation of the current evidence associated with the use of these procedures, a systematic review was performed. Existing systematic reviews were screened, and the Cochrane Back Review Group trial register was searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) fulfilling the inclusion criteria. Studies were included if they recruited adults with chronic LBP, evaluated the use of injection therapy or denervation procedures and measured at least one clinically relevant outcome (such as pain or functional status). Two review authors independently assessed studies for eligibility and risk of bias (RoB). A meta-analysis was performed with clinically homogeneous studies, and the GRADE approach was used to determine the quality of evidence. In total, 27 RCTs were included, 14 on injection therapy and 13 on denervation procedures. 18 (66%) of the studies were determined to have a low RoB. Because of clinical heterogeneity, only two comparisons could be pooled. Overall, there is only low to very low quality evidence to support the use of injection therapy and denervation procedures over placebo or other treatments for patients with chronic LBP. However, it cannot be ruled out that in carefully selected patients, some injection therapy or denervation procedures may be of benefit.
PMCID: PMC2989278  PMID: 20424870
Injection; Back pain; Denervation; Review
11.  A systematic review on the effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine for chronic non-specific low-back pain 
European Spine Journal  2010;19(8):1213-1228.
The purpose of this systematic review was to assess the effects of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), acupuncture and herbal medicine for chronic non-specific LBP. A comprehensive search was conducted by an experienced librarian from the Cochrane Back Review Group (CBRG) in multiple databases up to December 22, 2008. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of adults with chronic non-specific LBP, which evaluated at least one clinically relevant, patient-centred outcome measure were included. Two authors working independently from one another assessed the risk of bias using the criteria recommended by the CBRG and extracted the data. The data were pooled when clinically homogeneous and statistically possible or were otherwise qualitatively described. GRADE was used to determine the quality of the evidence. In total, 35 RCTs (8 SMT, 20 acupuncture, 7 herbal medicine), which examined 8,298 patients, fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Approximately half of these (2 SMT, 8 acupuncture, 7 herbal medicine) were thought to have a low risk of bias. In general, the pooled effects for the studied interventions demonstrated short-term relief or improvement only. The lack of studies with a low-risk of bias, especially in regard to SMT precludes any strong conclusions; however, the principal findings, which are based upon low- to very-low-quality evidence, suggest that SMT does not provide a more clinically beneficial effect compared with sham, passive modalities or any other intervention for treatment of chronic low-back pain. There is evidence, however, that acupuncture provides a short-term clinically relevant effect when compared with a waiting list control or when acupuncture is added to another intervention. Although there are some good results for individual herbal medicines in short-term individual trials, the lack of homogeneity across studies did not allow for a pooled estimate of the effect. In general, these results are in agreement with other recent systematic reviews on SMT, but in contrast with others. These results are also in agreement with recent reviews on acupuncture and herbal medicine. Randomized trials with a low risk of bias and adequate sample sizes are direly needed.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00586-010-1356-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2989199  PMID: 20229280
Systematic review; Spinal manipulative therapy; Acupuncture; Herbal medicine; Low-back pain
12.  Knee complaints seen in general practice: active sport participants versus non-sport participants 
Since knee complaints are common among athletes and are frequently presented in general practice, it is of interest to investigate the type of knee complaints represented in general practice of athletes in comparison with those of non-athletes. Therefore, the aim of this study is to investigate the differences in type of knee complaints between sport participants, in this study defined as athletes, and non-sport participants, defined as non-athletes, presenting in general practice. Further, differences in the initial policy of the GP, medical consumption, and outcome at one-year follow-up were also investigated.
Patients consulting their GP for a new episode of knee complaints were invited to participate in this prospective cohort study. From the total HONEUR knee cohort population (n = 1068) we extracted patients who were athletes (n = 421) or non-athletes (n = 388).
The results showed that acute distortions of the knee were significantly more diagnosed in athletes than in non-athletes (p = 0.04). Further, more athletes were advised by their GP to 'go easy on the knee' than the non-athletes (p < 0.01), but no differences were found in number of referrals and medication prescribed by the GP. The medical consumption was significantly higher among athletes; however, no significant differences were found between the two groups for recovery at one-year follow-up.
There are no major differences in the diagnosis and prognosis of knee complaints between athletes and non-athletes presented to the GP. This implies that there are no indications for different treatment strategies applied in both groups. However, athletes are more often advised to 'go easy on the knee' and to rest than non-athletes. Further, there is a trend towards increased medical consumption among athletes while functional disability and pain are lower than among the non-athletes.
PMCID: PMC2278141  PMID: 18366679
13.  The PEX study – Exercise therapy for patellofemoral pain syndrome: design of a randomized clinical trial in general practice and sports medicine [ISRCTN83938749] 
Patellofemoral complaints are frequently seen in younger and active patients. Clinical strategy is usually based on decreasing provoking activities as sports and demanding knee activities during work and leisure and reassuring the patient on the presumed good outcome.
Exercise therapy is also often prescribed although evidence on effectiveness is lacking.
The objective of this article is to present the design of a randomized clinical trial that examines the outcome of exercise therapy supervised by a physical therapist versus a clinically accepted "wait and see" approach (information and advice about the complaints only).
The research will address to both effectiveness and cost effectiveness of supervised exercise therapy in patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).
136 patients (adolescents and young adults) with patellofemoral pain syndrome are recruited in general practices and sport medicine centers. They will be randomly allocated receiving either 3 months of exercise therapy (or usual care.
The primary outcome measures are pain, knee function and perception of recovery after 3 months and 12 months of follow up and will be measured by self reporting.
Measurements will take place at baseline, 6 weeks, and 3 monthly until 1 year after inclusion in the study.
Secondary outcome measurements include an economic evaluation.
A cost-utility analysis will be performed that expresses health improvements in Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) and incorporates direct medical costs and productivity costs
This study has been designed after reviewing the literature on exercise therapy for patellofemoral pain syndrome. It was concluded that to merit the effect of exercise therapy a trial based on correct methodological concept needed to be executed.
The PEX study is a randomized clinical trial where exercise therapy is compared to usual care. This trial started in April 2005 and will finish in June 2007. The first results will be available around December 2007.
PMCID: PMC1431535  PMID: 16545120

Results 1-13 (13)