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1.  Incidence and prevalence of upper-extremity musculoskeletal disorders. A systematic appraisal of the literature 
Background
A systematic appraisal of the worldwide incidence and prevalence rates of UEDs available in scientific literature was executed to gauge the range of these estimates in various countries and to determine whether the rates are increasing in time.
Methods
Studies that recruited at least 500 people, collected data by using questionnaires, interviews and/or physical examinations, and reported incidence or prevalence rates of the whole upper-extremity including neck, were included.
Results
No studies were found with regard to the incidence of UEDs and 13 studies that reported prevalence rates of UEDs were included. The point prevalence ranged from 1.6–53%; the 12-months prevalence ranged from 2.3–41%. One study reported on the lifetime prevalence (29%). We did not find evidence of a clear increasing or decreasing pattern over time. The case definitions for UEDs used in the studies, differed enormously. Therefore, it was not possible to pool the data.
Conclusion
There are substantial differences in reported prevalence rates on UEDs. Main reason for this is the absence of a universally accepted way of labelling or defining UEDs. If we want to make progress in this field, the first requirement is to agree on unambiguous terminology and classification of EUDs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-7
PMCID: PMC1434740  PMID: 16448572
2.  Course and prognosis of recovery for chronic non-specific low back pain: design, therapy program and baseline data of a prospective cohort study 
Background
There has been increasing focus on factors predicting the development of chronic musculoskeletal disorders. For patients already experiencing chronic non-specific low back pain it is also relevant to investigate which prognostic factors predict recovery. We present the design of a cohort study that aims to determine the course and prognostic factors for recovery in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain.
Methods/Design
All participating patients were recruited (Jan 2003-Dec 2008) from the same rehabilitation centre and were evaluated by means of (postal) questionnaires and physical examinations at baseline, during the 2-month therapy program, and at 5 and 12 months after start of therapy. The therapy protocol at the rehabilitation centre used a bio-psychosocial approach to stimulate patients to adopt adequate (movement) behaviour aimed at physical and functional recovery. The program is part of regular care and consists of 16 sessions of 3 hours each, over an 8-week period (in total 48 hours), followed by a 3-month self-management program. The primary outcomes are low back pain intensity, disability, quality of life, patient's global perceived effect of recovery, and participation in work. Baseline characteristics include information on socio-demographics, low back pain, employment status, and additional clinical items status such as fatigue, duration of activities, and fear of kinesiophobia. Prognostic variables are determined for recovery at short-term (5 months) and long-term (12 months) follow-up after start of therapy.
Discussion
In a routine clinical setting it is important to provide patients suffering from chronic non-specific low back pain with adequate information about the prognosis of their complaint.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-252
PMCID: PMC3221649  PMID: 22047019
3.  Efficacy of MRI in primary care for patients with knee complaints due to trauma: protocol of a randomised controlled non-inferiority trial (TACKLE trial) 
Background
Patients with traumatic knee complaints regularly consult their general practitioner (GP). MRI might be a valuable diagnostic tool to assist GPs in making appropriate treatment decisions and reducing costs. Therefore, this study will assess the cost-effectiveness of referral to MRI by GPs compared with usual care, in patients with persistent traumatic knee complaints.
Design and methods
This is a multi-centre, open-labelled randomised controlled non-inferiority trial in combination with a concurrent observational cohort study. Eligible patients (aged 18–45 years) have knee complaints due to trauma (or sudden onset) occurring in the preceding 6 months and consulting their GP. Participants are randomised to: 1) an MRI group, i.e. GP referral to MRI, or 2) a usual care group, i.e. no MRI. Primary outcomes are knee-related daily function, medical costs (healthcare use and productivity loss), and quality of life. Secondary outcomes are disability due to knee complaints, severity of knee pain, and patients’ perceived recovery and satisfaction. Outcomes are measured at baseline and at 1.5, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months follow-up. Also collected are data on patient demographics, GPs’ initial working diagnosis, GPs’ preferred management at baseline, and MRI findings.
Discussion
In the Netherlands, the additional diagnostic value and cost-effectiveness of direct access to knee MRI for patients presenting with traumatic knee complaints in general practice is unknown. Although GPs increasingly refer patients to MRI, the Dutch clinical guideline ‘Traumatic knee complaints’ for GPs does not recommend referral to MRI, mainly because the cost-effectiveness is still unknown.
Trial registration
Dutch Trial Registration: NTR3689.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-63
PMCID: PMC3973891  PMID: 24588860
Traumatic knee complaint; General practice; Magnetic resonance imaging; Randomised controlled non-inferiority trial; Cost-utility; Cost-effectiveness
4.  Kinesiophobia in patients with non-traumatic arm, neck and shoulder complaints: a prospective cohort study in general practice 
Background
Complaints of arm, neck and shoulder are common in Western societies. Of those consulting a general practitioner (GP) with non-traumatic arm, neck or shoulder complaints, about 50% do not recover within 6 months.
Kinesiophobia (also known as fear of movement/(re)injury) may also play a role in these complaints, as it may lead to avoidance behaviour resulting in hypervigilance to bodily sensations, followed by disability, disuse and depression. However, in relation to arm, neck and shoulder complaints little is known about kinesiophobia and its associated variables.
Therefore this study aimed to: describe the degree of kinesiophobia in patients with non-traumatic complaints of arm, neck and shoulder in general practice; to determine whether mean scores of kinesiophobia change over time in non-recovered patients; and to evaluate variables associated with kinesiophobia at baseline.
Methods
In this prospective cohort study set in general practice, consulters with a first or new episode of non-traumatic arm, neck or shoulder complaints (aged 18–64 years) entered the cohort. Baseline data were collected on kinesiophobia using the Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia, the 13-item adjusted version: TSK-AV, and on patient-, complaint-, and psychosocial variables using self-administered questionnaires. The mean TSK-AV score was calculated. In non-recovered patients the follow-up TSK-AV scores at 6 and 12 months were analyzed with the general linear mixed model. Variables associated with kinesiophobia at baseline were evaluated using multivariate linear regression analyses.
Results
The mean TSK-AV score at baseline was 24.8 [SD: 6.2]. Among non-recovered patients the mean TSK-AV score at baseline was 26.1 [SD: 6.6], which remained unchanged over 12- months follow-up period. The strongest associations with kinesiophobia were catastrophizing, disability, and comorbidity of musculoskeletal complaints. Additionally, having a shoulder complaint, low social support, high somatization and high distress contributed to the kinesiophobia score.
Conclusion
The mean TSK-AV score in our population seems comparable to those in other populations in primary care.
In patients who did not recover during the 12- month follow-up, the degree of kinesiophobia remained unchanged during this time period.
The variables associated with kinesiophobia at baseline appear to be in line with the fear-avoidance model.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-117
PMCID: PMC2219996  PMID: 18045457
5.  Current management and prognostic factors in physiotherapy practice for patients with shoulder pain: design of a prospective cohort study 
Background
Shoulder pain is disabling and has a considerable socio-economic impact. Over 50% of patients presenting in primary care still have symptoms after 6 months; moreover, prognostic factors such as pain intensity, age, disability level and duration of complaints are associated with poor outcome. Most shoulder complaints in this group are categorized as non-specific. Musculoskeletal ultrasound might be a useful imaging method to detect subgroups of patients with subacromial disorders.
This article describes the design of a prospective cohort study evaluating the influence of known prognostic and possible prognostic factors, such as findings from musculoskeletal ultrasound outcome and working alliance, on the recovery of shoulder pain. Also, to assess the usual physiotherapy care for shoulder pain and examine the inter-rater reliability of musculoskeletal ultrasound between radiologists and physiotherapists for patients with shoulder pain.
Methods
A prospective cohort study including an inter-rater reliability study. Patients presenting in primary care physiotherapy practice with shoulder pain are enrolled. At baseline validated questionnaires are used to measure patient characteristics, disease-specific characteristics and social factors. Physical examination is performed according to the expertise of the physiotherapists. Follow-up measurements will be performed 6, 12 and 26 weeks after inclusion. Primary outcome measure is perceived recovery, measured on a 7-point Likert scale. Logistic regression analysis will be used to evaluate the association between prognostic factors and recovery.
Discussion
The ShoCoDiP (Shoulder Complaints and using Diagnostic ultrasound in Physiotherapy practice) cohort study will provide information on current management of patients with shoulder pain in primary care, provide data to develop a prediction model for shoulder pain in primary care and to evaluate whether musculoskeletal ultrasound can improve prognosis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-62
PMCID: PMC3606323  PMID: 23399098
6.  Cost-effectiveness of minimal interventional procedures for chronic mechanical low back pain: design of four randomised controlled trials with an economic evaluation 
Background
Minimal interventional procedures are frequently applied in patients with mechanical low back pain which is defined as pain presumably resulting from single sources: facet, disc, sacroiliac joint or a combination of these. Usually, these minimal interventional procedures are an integral part of a multidisciplinary pain programme. A recent systematic review issued by the Dutch Health Insurance Council showed that the effectiveness of these procedures for the total group of patients with chronic low back pain is yet unclear and cost-effectiveness unknown. The aim of the study is to evaluate whether a multidisciplinary pain programme with minimal interventional procedures is cost-effective compared to the multidisciplinary pain programme alone for patients with chronic mechanical low back pain who did not respond to conservative primary care and were referred to a pain clinic.
Methods
All patients with chronic low back pain who are referred to one of the 13 participating pain clinics will be asked to participate in an observational study. Patients with a suspected diagnosis of facet, disc or sacroiliac joint problems will receive a diagnostic block to confirm this diagnosis. If confirmed, they will be asked to participate in a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). For each single source a separate RCT will be conducted. Patients with a combination of facet, disc or sacroiliac joint problems will be invited for participation in a RCT as well. An economic evaluation from a societal perspective will be performed alongside these four RCTs. Patients will complete questionnaires at baseline, 3 and 6 weeks, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after start of the treatment. Costs will be collected using self-completed cost questionnaires.
Discussion
No trials are yet available which have evaluated the cost-effectiveness of minimal interventional procedures in patients with chronic mechanical low back pain, which emphasizes the importance of this study.
Trial registration number
National Trial Register: NTR3531
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-260
PMCID: PMC3543229  PMID: 23273213
Chronic mechanical low back pain; Minimal interventional procedures; Multidisciplinary pain programme; Economic evaluation
7.  Adverse effects of extra-articular corticosteroid injections: a systematic review 
Background
To estimate the occurrence and type of adverse effects after application of an extra-articular (soft tissue) corticosteroid injection.
Methods
A systematic review of the literature was made based on a PubMed and Embase search covering the period 1956 to January 2010. Case reports were included, as were prospective and retrospective studies that reported adverse events of corticosteroid injection. All clinical trials which used extra-articular corticosteroid injections were examined. We divided the reported adverse events into major (defined as those needing intervention or not disappearing) and minor ones (transient, not requiring intervention).
Results
The search yielded 87 relevant studies:44 case reports, 37 prospective studies and 6 retrospective studies. The major adverse events included osteomyelitis and protothecosis; one fatal necrotizing fasciitis; cellulitis and ecchymosis; tendon ruptures; atrophy of the plantar fat was described after injecting a neuroma; and local skin effects appeared as atrophy, hypopigmentation or as skin defect. The minor adverse events effects ranged from skin rash to flushing and disturbed menstrual pattern. Increased pain or steroid flare after injection was reported in 19 studies. After extra-articular injection, the incidence of major adverse events ranged from 0-5.8% and that of minor adverse events from 0-81%. It was not feasible to pool the risk for adverse effects due to heterogeneity of study populations and difference in interventions and variance in reporting.
Conclusion
In this literature review it was difficult to accurately quantify the incidence of adverse effects after extra-articular corticosteroid injection. The reported adverse events were relatively mild, although one fatal reaction was reported.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-206
PMCID: PMC2945953  PMID: 20836867
8.  Reproducibility of cervical range of motion in patients with neck pain 
Background
Reproducibility measurements of the range of motion are an important prerequisite for the interpretation of study results. The aim of the study is to assess the intra-rater and inter-rater reproducibility of the measurement of active Range of Motion (ROM) in patients with neck pain using the Cybex Electronic Digital Inclinometer-320 (EDI-320).
Methods
In an outpatient clinic in a primary care setting 32 patients with at least 2 weeks of pain and/or stiffness in the neck were randomly assessed, in a test- retest design with blinded raters using a standardized measurement protocol. Cervical flexion-extension, lateral flexion and rotation were assessed.
Results
Reliability expressed by the Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC) was 0.93 (lateral flexion) or higher for intra-rater reliability and 0.89 (lateral flexion) or higher for inter-rater reliability. The 95% limits of agreement for intra-rater agreement, expressing the range of the differences between two ratings were -2.5 ± 11.1° for flexion-extension, -0.1 ± 10.4° for lateral flexion and -5.9 ± 13.5° for rotation. For inter-rater agreement the limits of agreement were 3.3 ± 17.0° for flexion-extension, 0.5 ± 17.0° for lateral flexion and -1.3 ± 24.6° for rotation.
Conclusion
In general, the intra-rater reproducibility and the inter-rater reproducibility were good. We recommend to compare the reproducibility and clinical applicability of the EDI-320 inclinometer with other cervical ROM measures in symptomatic patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-59
PMCID: PMC1343553  PMID: 16351719
9.  Triggers for an episode of sudden onset low back pain: study protocol 
Background
Most research on risk factors for low back pain has focused on long term exposures rather than factors immediately preceding the onset of low back pain. The aim of this study is to quantify the transient increase in risk of a sudden episode of low back pain associated with acute exposure to a range of common physical and psychological factors.
Methods/design
This study uses a case-crossover design. One thousand adults with a sudden onset of low back pain presenting to primary care clinicians will be recruited. Basic demographic and clinical information including exposure to putative triggers will be collected using a questionnaire. These triggers include exposure to hazardous manual tasks, physical activity, a slip/trip or fall, consumption of alcohol, sexual activity, being distracted, and being fatigued or tired. Exposures in the case window (0-2 hours from the time when participants first notice their back pain) will be compared to exposures in two control time-windows (one 24-26 hours and another 48-50 hours before the case window).
Discussion
The completion of this study will provide the first-research based estimates of the increase in risk of a sudden episode of acute low back pain associated with transient exposure to a range of common factors thought to trigger low back pain.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-7
PMCID: PMC3292970  PMID: 22273001
10.  Cost-effectiveness of exercise therapy versus general practitioner care for osteoarthritis of the hip: design of a randomised clinical trial 
Background
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease, causing pain and functional impairments. According to international guidelines, exercise therapy has a short-term effect in reducing pain/functional impairments in knee OA and is therefore also generally recommended for hip OA. Because of its high prevalence and clinical implications, OA is associated with considerable (healthcare) costs. However, studies evaluating cost-effectiveness of common exercise therapy in hip OA are lacking. Therefore, this randomised controlled trial is designed to investigate the cost-effectiveness of exercise therapy in conjunction with the general practitioner's (GP) care, compared to GP care alone, for patients with hip OA.
Methods/Design
Patients aged ≥ 45 years with OA of the hip, who consulted the GP during the past year for hip complaints and who comply with the American College of Rheumatology criteria, are included. Patients are randomly assigned to either exercise therapy in addition to GP care, or to GP care alone. Exercise therapy consists of (maximally) 12 treatment sessions with a physiotherapist, and home exercises. These are followed by three additional treatment sessions in the 5th, 7th and 9th month after the first treatment session. GP care consists of usual care for hip OA, such as general advice or prescribing pain medication. Primary outcomes are hip pain and hip-related activity limitations (measured with the Hip disability Osteoarthritis Outcome Score [HOOS]), direct costs, and productivity costs (measured with the PROductivity and DISease Questionnaire). These parameters are measured at baseline, at 6 weeks, and at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months follow-up. To detect a 25% clinical difference in the HOOS pain score, with a power of 80% and an alpha 5%, 210 patients are required. Data are analysed according to the intention-to-treat principle. Effectiveness is evaluated using linear regression models with repeated measurements. An incremental cost-effectiveness analysis and an incremental cost-utility analysis will also be performed.
Discussion
The results of this trial will provide insight into the cost-effectiveness of adding exercise therapy to GPs' care in the treatment of OA of the hip. This trial is registered in the Dutch trial registry http://www.trialregister.nl: trial number NTR1462.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-232
PMCID: PMC3198764  PMID: 21992502
11.  Back Complaints in the Elders (BACE); design of cohort studies in primary care: an international consortium 
Background
Although back complaints are common among older people, limited information is available in the literature about the clinical course of back pain in older people and the identification of older persons at risk for the transition from acute back complaints to chronic back pain.
The aim of this study is to assess the course of back complaints and identify prognostic factors for the transition from acute back complaints to chronic back complaints in older people who visit a primary health care physician.
Methods/design
The design is a prospective cohort study with one-year follow-up. There will be no interference with usual care. Patients older than 55 years who consult a primary health care physician with a new episode of back complaints will be included in this study.
Data will be collected using a questionnaire, physical examination and X-ray at baseline, and follow-up questionnaires after 6 weeks and 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.
The study 'Back Complaints in the Elders' (BACE) will take place in different countries: starting in the Netherlands, Brazil and Australia. The research groups collaborate in the BACE consortium. The design and basic objectives of the study will be the same across the studies.
Discussion
This consortium is a collaboration between different research groups, aiming to provide insight into the course of back complaints in older people and to identify prognostic factors for the transition from acute back complaints to chronic back complaints in older persons. The BACE consortium allows to investigate differences between older people with back complaints and the health care systems in the different countries and to increase the statistical power by enabling meta-analyses using the individual patient data. Additional research groups worldwide are invited to join the BACE consortium.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-193
PMCID: PMC3182961  PMID: 21854620
12.  Design of the Verbiest trial: cost-effectiveness of surgery versus prolonged conservative treatment in patients with lumbar stenosis 
Background
Degenerative changes of lumbar spine anatomy resulting in the encroachment of neural structures are often regarded progressive, ultimately necessitating decompressive surgery. However the natural course is not necessarily progressive and the efficacy of a variety of nonsurgical interventions has also been described. At present there is insufficient data to compare surgical and nonsurgical interventions in terms of their relative benefit and safety. Previous attempts failed to provide clear clinical recommendations or to distinguish subgroups that substantially benefit from a certain treatment strategy. We present the design of a randomized controlled trial on (cost-) effectiveness of surgical decompression versus prolonged conservative treatment in patients with neurogenic intermittent claudication caused by lumbar stenosis.
Methods/Design
The aim of the Verbiest trial is to evaluate the effectiveness of prolonged conservative treatment compared to decompressive surgery. The study is a multi-center randomized controlled trial with two parallel groups design. Patients (age over 50) presenting to the neurologist or neurosurgeon with at least 3 months complaints of neurogenic intermittent claudication and considering surgical treatment are eligible for inclusion. Participants are randomly allocated to either prolonged conservative treatment, receiving further treatment from their general practitioner and physical therapist, or allocated to surgery and operated within 4 weeks. Primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient as measured by the Zurich Claudication Questionnaire at 24 months of follow-up. Data is analyzed according to the intention to treat principle.
Discussion
With a cost-effectiveness analysis the trade off between the costs of prolonged conservative treatment and delayed surgery in a smaller number of patients are compared with the current policy of surgical management. As surgery is expected to be inevitable in certain subgroups of patients, the distinction of and classification by predictive patient characteristics is most relevant to clinical practice.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register (NTR): NTR2216
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-57
PMCID: PMC3058072  PMID: 21371314
13.  The NEtherlands Cervical Kinematics (NECK) Trial. Cost-effectiveness of anterior cervical discectomy with or without interbody fusion and arthroplasty in the treatment of cervical disc herniation; a double-blind randomised multicenter study 
Background
Patients with cervical radicular syndrome due to disc herniation refractory to conservative treatment are offered surgical treatment. Anterior cervical discectomy is the standard procedure, often in combination with interbody fusion. Accelerated adjacent disc degeneration is a known entity on the long term. Recently, cervical disc prostheses are developed to maintain motion and possibly reduce the incidence of adjacent disc degeneration. A comparative cost-effectiveness study focused on adjacent segment degeneration and functional outcome has not been performed yet. We present the design of the NECK trial, a randomised study on cost-effectiveness of anterior cervical discectomy with or without interbody fusion and arthroplasty in patients with cervical disc herniation.
Methods/Design
Patients (age 18-65 years) presenting with radicular signs due to single level cervical disc herniation lasting more than 8 weeks are included. Patients will be randomised into 3 groups: anterior discectomy only, anterior discectomy with interbody fusion, and anterior discectomy with disc prosthesis. The primary outcome measure is symptomatic adjacent disc degeneration at 2 and 5 years after surgery. Other outcome parameters will be the Neck Disability Index, perceived recovery, arm and neck pain, complications, re-operations, quality of life, job satisfaction, anxiety and depression assessment, medical consumption, absenteeism, and costs. The study is a randomised prospective multicenter trial, in which 3 surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurses will be kept blinded of the allocated treatment for 2 years. The follow-up period is 5 years.
Discussion
Currently, anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of cervical disc herniation. Whether additional interbody fusion or disc prothesis is necessary and cost-effective will be determined by this trial.
Trial Registration
Netherlands Trial Register NTR1289
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-122
PMCID: PMC2893084  PMID: 20553591
14.  The Felix-trial. Double-blind randomization of interspinous implant or bony decompression for treatment of spinal stenosis related intermittent neurogenic claudication 
Background
Decompressive laminotomy is the standard surgical procedure in the treatment of patients with canal stenosis related intermittent neurogenic claudication. New techniques, such as interspinous process implants, claim a shorter hospital stay, less post-operative pain and equal long-term functional outcome. A comparative (cost-) effectiveness study has not been performed yet. This protocol describes the design of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on (cost-) effectiveness of the use of interspinous process implants versus conventional decompression surgery in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis.
Methods/Design
Patients (age 40-85) presenting with intermittent neurogenic claudication due to lumbar spinal stenosis lasting more than 3 months refractory to conservative treatment, are included. Randomization into interspinous implant surgery versus bony decompression surgery will take place in the operating room after induction of anesthesia. The primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient measured by the Zurich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ), at 8 weeks and 1 year after surgery. Other outcome parameters include perceived recovery, leg and back pain, incidence of re-operations, complications, quality of life, medical consumption, absenteeism and costs. The study is a randomized multi-institutional trial, in which two surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurses are kept blinded of the allocated treatment during the follow-up period of 1 year.
Discussion
Currently decompressive laminotomy is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis. Whether surgery with interspinous implants is a reasonable alternative can be determined by this trial.
Trial register
Dutch Trial register number: NTR1307
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-100
PMCID: PMC2885320  PMID: 20507568
15.  Effectiveness of diclofenac versus acetaminophen in primary care patients with knee osteoarthritis: [NTR1485], DIPA-Trial: design of a randomized clinical trial 
Background
Osteoarthritis is the most frequent chronic joint disease which causes pain and disability of especially hip and knee. According to international guidelines and the Dutch general practitioners guidelines for non-traumatic knee symptoms, acetaminophen should be the pain medication of first choice for osteoarthritis. However, of all prescribed pain medication in general practice, 90% consists of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs compared to 10% of acetaminophen. Because general practitioners may lack evidence showing a similar efficacy of acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, we present the design of a randomized open-label trial to investigate the efficacy of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac) compared with acetaminophen in new consulters with knee osteoarthritis in general practice.
Methods/Design
Patients aged 45 years or older consulting their general practitioner with non-traumatic knee pain, meeting the clinical American College of Rheumatology criteria, and with a pain severity score of 2 or higher (on a 0-10 scale), will be randomly allocated to either diclofenac (maximum daily dose of 150 mg) or acetaminophen (maximum daily dose of 3000 mg) for 2 weeks and, if required, an additional 1-2 weeks, with a total follow-up period of 12 weeks. The primary outcomes are knee pain measured with a daily diary, and pain and function measured with the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) at baseline, and at 3, 6, 9, and 12-weeks follow-up. Secondary outcomes are patients' perceived recovery, quality of life, medical, patient, and productivity costs, compliance to therapy, co-interventions, and adverse reactions.
Discussion
The successful completion of this trial would lead to a better understanding of which medication should be used in the treatment of primary care patients with mild knee osteoarthritis.
Trial registration
Dutch trial registry NTR1485.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-7
PMCID: PMC2835660  PMID: 20067607
16.  Effectiveness of percutaneous laser disc decompression versus conventional open discectomy in the treatment of lumbar disc herniation; design of a prospective randomized controlled trial 
Background
The usual surgical treatment of refractory sciatica caused by lumbar disc herniation, is open discectomy. Minimally invasive procedures, including percutaneous therapies under local anesthesia, are increasingly gaining attention. One of these treatments is Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression (PLDD). This treatment can be carried out in an outpatient setting and swift recovery and return to daily routine are suggested. Thus far, no randomized trial into cost-effectiveness of PLDD versus standard surgical procedure has been performed. We present the design of a randomized controlled trial, studying the cost-effectiveness of PLDD versus conventional open discectomy in patients with sciatica from lumbar disc herniation.
Methods/design
The study is a randomized prospective multi-center trial, in which two treatment strategies are compared in a parallel group design. Patients (age 18–70 years) visiting the neurosurgery department of the participating hospitals, are considered for inclusion in the trial when sciatica due to lumbar disc herniation has lasted more than 8 weeks. Patients with disc herniation smaller than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter, without concomitant lateral recess stenosis or sequestration, are eligible for participation, and are randomized into one of two treatment arms; either Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression or conventional discectomy. The functional outcome of the patient, as assessed by the Roland Disability Questionnaire for Sciatica at 8 weeks and 1 year after treatment, is the primary outcome measure. The secondary outcome parameters are recovery as perceived by the patient, leg and back pain, incidence of re-intervention, complications, quality of life, medical consumption, absence of work and secondary costs.
Discussion
Open discectomy is still considered to be the golden standard in the surgical treatment of lumbar disc herniation. Whether Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression has at least as much efficacy as the standard surgical procedure, and is more cost-effective, will be determined by this trial.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN25884790.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-10-49
PMCID: PMC2697136  PMID: 19439098
17.  Cost-effectiveness of decompression according to Gill versus instrumented spondylodesis in the treatment of sciatica due to low grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis: A prospective randomised controlled trial [NTR1300] 
Background
Nerve root decompression with instrumented spondylodesis is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the treatment of patients with symptomatic low-grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis. Nerve root decompression without instrumented fusion, i.e. Gill's procedure, is an alternative and less invasive approach. A comparative cost-effectiveness study has not been performed yet. We present the design of a randomised controlled trial on cost-effectiveness of decompression according to Gill versus instrumented spondylodesis.
Methods/design
All patients (age between 18 and 70 years) with sciatica or neurogenic claudication lasting more than 3 months due to spondylolytic spondylolisthesis grade I or II, are eligible for inclusion. Patients will be randomly allocated to nerve root decompression according to Gill, either unilateral or bilateral, or pedicle screw fixation with interbody fusion. The main primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient measured with the Roland Disability Questionnaire for Sciatica at 12 weeks and 2 years. Other primary outcome measures are perceived recovery and intensity of leg pain and low back pain. The secondary outcome measures include, incidence of re-operations, complications, serum creatine phosphokinase, quality of life, medical consumption, costs, absenteeism, work perception, depression and anxiety, and treatment preference. The study is a randomised prospective multicenter trial in which two surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurse will not be blinded during the follow-up period of 2 years.
Discussion
Currently, nerve root decompression with instrumented fusion is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of low-grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis, although scientific proof justifying instrumented spondylodesis over simple decompression is lacking. This trial is designed to elucidate the controversy in best surgical treatment of symptomatic patients with low-grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-9-128
PMCID: PMC2570682  PMID: 18822175
18.  Knee complaints seen in general practice: active sport participants versus non-sport participants 
Background
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.
Methods
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).
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-9-36
PMCID: PMC2278141  PMID: 18366679
19.  Effect of corticosteroid injection for trochanter pain syndrome: design of a randomised clinical trial in general practice 
Background
Regional pain in the hip in adults is a common cause of a general practitioner visit. A considerable part of patients suffer from (greater) trochanteric pain syndrome or trochanteric bursitis. Local corticosteroid injections is one of the treatment options. Although clear evidence is lacking, small observational studies suggest that this treatment is effective in the short-term follow-up. So far, there are no randomised controlled trials available evaluating the efficacy of injection therapy.
This study will investigate the efficacy of local corticosteroid injections in the trochanter syndrome in the general practice, using a randomised controlled trial design. The cost effectiveness of the corticosteroid injection therapy will also be assessed. Secondly, the role of co-morbidity in relation to the efficacy of local corticosteroid injections will be investigated.
Methods/Design
This study is a pragmatic, open label randomised trial.
A total of 150 patients (age 18–80 years) visiting the general practitioner with complaints suggestive of trochanteric pain syndrome will be allocated to receive local corticosteroid injections or to receive usual care. Usual care consists of analgesics as needed. The randomisation is stratified for yes or no co-morbidity of low back pain, osteoarthritis of the hip, or both. The treatment will be evaluated by means of questionnaires at several time points within one year, with the 3 month and 1 year evaluation of pain and recovery as primary outcome. Analyses of primary and secondary outcomes will be made according to the intention-to-treat principle. Direct and indirect costs will be assessed by questionnaires. The cost effectiveness will be estimated using the following ratio: CE ratio = (cost of injection therapy minus cost of usual care)/(effect of injection therapy minus effect of usual care).
Discussion
This study design is appropriate to estimate effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the injection therapy. We choose to use a pragmatic study design and are thus not able to study specific effects of the injection with corticosteroids. A distinction between placebo effect of the injection and specific effects of the corticosteroids is therefore not possible.
Trial Registration
The trial is listed in the Dutch Trial Registry with the number ISRCTN16994576
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-8-95
PMCID: PMC2045096  PMID: 17880718
20.  Cost-effectiveness of microendoscopic discectomy versus conventional open discectomy in the treatment of lumbar disc herniation: a prospective randomised controlled trial [ISRCTN51857546] 
Background
Open discectomy is the standard surgical procedure in the treatment of patients with long-lasting sciatica caused by lumbar disc herniation. Minimally invasive approaches such as microendoscopic discectomy have gained attention in recent years. Reduced tissue trauma allows early ambulation, short hospital stay and quick resumption of daily activities. A comparative cost-effectiveness study has not been performed yet. We present the design of a randomised controlled trial on cost-effectiveness of microendoscopic discectomy versus conventional open discectomy in patients with lumbar disc herniation.
Methods/Design
Patients (age 18–70 years) presenting with sciatica due to lumbar disc herniation lasting more than 6–8 weeks are included. Patients with disc herniation larger than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter, or disc herniation less than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter with concomitant lateral recess stenosis or sequestration, are eliglible for participation. Randomisation into microendoscopic discectomy or conventional unilateral transflaval discectomy will take place in the operating room after induction of anesthesia. The length of skin incision is equal in both groups. The primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient, measured by the Roland Disability Questionnaire for Sciatica, at 8 weeks and 1 year after surgery. We will also evaluate several other outcome parameters, including perceived recovery, leg and back pain, incidence of re-operations, complications, serum creatine kinase, quality of life, medical consumption, absenteeism and costs. The study is a randomised prospective multi-institutional trial, in which two surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurses are kept blinded of the allocated treatment during the follow-up period of 2 years.
Discussion
Currently, open discectomy is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of lumbar disc herniation. Whether microendoscopic discectomy is more cost-effective than unilateral transflaval discectomy has to be determined by this trial.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-42
PMCID: PMC1475863  PMID: 16696861
21.  The PEX study – Exercise therapy for patellofemoral pain syndrome: design of a randomized clinical trial in general practice and sports medicine [ISRCTN83938749] 
Background
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).
Methods/design
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
Discussion
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-31
PMCID: PMC1431535  PMID: 16545120
22.  Knee disorders in primary care: design and patient selection of the HONEUR knee cohort 
Background
Knee complaints are a frequent reason for consultation in general practice. These patients constitute a specific population compared to secondary care patients. However, information to base treatment decisions on is generally derived from specialistic settings. Our cohort study is aimed at collecting knowledge about prognosis and prognostic factors of knee complaints presented in a primary care setting. This paper describes the methods used for data collection, and discusses potential selectiveness of patient recruitment.
Methods
This is a descriptive prospective cohort study with one-year follow-up. 40 Dutch GPs recruited consecutive patients with incident knee complaints aged 12 years and above from October 2001 to October 2003. Patients were assessed with questionnaires and standardised physical examinations. Additional measurements of subgroups included MRI for recent knee traumas and device assessed function measurements for non-traumatic patients.
After the inclusion period we retrospectively searched the computerized medical files of participating GPs to obtain a sample to determine possible selective recruitment. We assessed differences in proportions of gender, traumatic onset of injury and age groups between participants and non-participants using Odds Ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals.
Results
We recruited 1068 patients. In a sample of 310 patients visiting the GP, we detected some selective recruitment, indicating an underrepresentation of patients aged 12 to 35 years (OR 1.70; 1.15–2.77), especially among men (OR 2.16; 1.12–4.18). The underrepresentation of patients with traumatic onset of injury was not statistically significant.
Conclusion
This cohort is unique in its size, setting, and its range of both age and type of knee complaints. We believe the detected selective recruitment is unlikely to introduce significant bias, as the cohort will be divided into subgroups according to age group or traumatic onset of injury for future analyses. However, the underrepresentation of men in the age group of 12 to 35 years of age warrants caution. Based on the available data, we believe our cohort is an acceptable representation of patients with new knee complaints consulting the GP, and we expect no problems with extrapolation of the results to the general Dutch population.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-45
PMCID: PMC1208897  PMID: 16117830
23.  The effect of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis: design of a long-term randomised clinical trial [ISRCTN54513166] 
Background
Pharmacological treatment for osteoarthritis (OA) can be divided into two groups: symptom-modifying drugs and disease-modifying drugs. Symptom-modifying drugs are currently the prescription of choice for patients with OA, as disease-modifying drugs are not yet available in usual care. However, there has recently been a lot of debate about glucosamine sulphate (GS), a biological agent that is thought to have both symptom-modifying and disease-modifying properties. This assumption has yet to be proved.
The objective of this article is to present the design of a blind randomised clinical trial that examines the long-term symptom-modifying and disease-modifying effectiveness of GS in patients with hip OA. This trial is ongoing and will finish in March 2006.
Methods/design
Patients with hip OA meeting the ACR-criteria are randomly allocated to either 1500 mg of oral GS or placebo for the duration of two years. The primary outcome measures, which are joint space narrowing (JSN), and change in the pain and function score of the Western Ontario McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis index (WOMAC), are determined at baseline and after two years of follow-up during the final assessment. Intermediate measures at three-month intervals throughout the trial are used to study secondary outcome measures. Secondary outcome measures are changes in WOMAC stiffness score, quality of life, medical consumption, side effects and differences in biomarker CTX-II.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-20
PMCID: PMC1090586  PMID: 15850497
24.  Prolonged conservative treatment or 'early' surgery in sciatica caused by a lumbar disc herniation: rationale and design of a randomized trial [ISRCT 26872154] 
Background
The design of a randomized multicenter trial is presented on the effectiveness of a prolonged conservative treatment strategy compared with surgery in patients with persisting intense sciatica (lumbosacral radicular syndrome).
Methods/design
Patients presenting themselves to their general practitioner with disabling sciatica lasting less than twelve weeks are referred to the neurology outpatient department of one of the participating hospitals. After confirmation of the diagnosis and surgical indication MRI scanning is performed. If a distinct disc herniation is discerned which in addition covers the clinically expected site the patient is eligible for randomization. Depending on the outcome of the randomization scheme the patient will either be submitted to prolonged conservative care or surgery. Surgery will be carried out according to the guidelines and between six and twelve weeks after onset of complaints. The experimental therapy consists of a prolonged conservative treatment under supervision of the general practitioner, which may be followed by surgical intervention in case of persisting or progressive disability. The main primary outcome measure is the disease specific disability of daily functioning. Other primary outcome measures are perceived recovery and intensity of legpain. Secondary outcome measures encompass severity of complaints, quality of life, medical consumption, absenteeism, costs and preference. The main research question will be answered at 12 months after randomization. The total follow-up period covers two years.
Discussion
Evidence is lacking concerning the optimal treatment of lumbar disc induced sciatica. This pragmatic randomized trial, focusses on the 'timing' of intervention, and will contribute to the decision of the general practictioner and neurologist, regarding referral of patients for surgery.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-8
PMCID: PMC551598  PMID: 15707491
25.  Conservative treatment in patients with an acute lumbosacral radicular syndrome: design of a randomised clinical trial [ISRCTN68857256] 
Background
The objective is to present the design of randomised clinical trial (RCT) on the effectiveness of physical therapy added to general practitioners management compared to general practitioners management only in patients with an acute lumbosacral radicular syndrome (also called sciatica).
Methods/Design
Patients in general practice diagnosed with an acute (less than 6 weeks) lumbosacral radicular syndrome and an age above 18 years are eligible for participation. The general practitioners treatment follows their clinical guideline. The physical therapy treatment will consist of patient education and exercise therapy. The primary outcome measure is patients reported global perceived effect. Secondary outcome measures are severity of complaints, functional status, health status, fear of movement, medical consumption, sickness absence, costs and treatment preference. The follow-up is 52 weeks.
Discussion
Treatment by general practitioners and physical therapists in this study will be transparent and not a complete "black box". The results of this trial will contribute to the decision of the general practitioner regarding referral to physical therapy in patients with an acute lumbosacral radicular syndrome.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-5-39
PMCID: PMC534096  PMID: 15535882

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