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1.  The effect of continuous ultrasound on chronic low back pain: protocol of a randomized controlled trial 
Chronic non-specific low-back pain (LBP) is one of the most common and expensive musculoskeletal disorders in industrialized countries. Similar to other countries in the world, LBP is a common health and socioeconomic problem in Iran. One of the most widely used modalities in the field of physiotherapy for treating LBP is therapeutic ultrasound. Despite its common use, there is still inconclusive evidence to support its effectiveness in this group of patients. This randomised trial will evaluate the effectiveness of continuous ultrasound in addition to exercise therapy in patients with chronic LBP.
Methods and design
A total of 46 patients, between the ages 18 and 65 years old who have had LBP for more than three months will be recruited from university hospitals. Participants will be randomized to receive continuous ultrasound plus exercise therapy or placebo ultrasound plus exercise therapy. These groups will be treated for 10 sessions during a period of 4 weeks. Primary outcome measures will be functional disability and pain intensity. Lumbar flexion and extension range of motion, as well as changes in electromyography muscle fatigue indices, will be measured as secondary outcomes. All outcome measures will be measured at baseline, after completion of the treatment sessions, and after one month.
The results of this trial will help to provide some evidence regarding the use of continuous ultrasound in chronic LBP patients. This should lead to a more evidence-based approach to clinical decision making regarding the use of ultrasound for LBP.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register (NTR): NTR2251
PMCID: PMC3069953  PMID: 21406117
2.  Cost-effectiveness of minimal interventional procedures for chronic mechanical low back pain: design of four randomised controlled trials with an economic evaluation 
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.
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.
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
PMCID: PMC3543229  PMID: 23273213
Chronic mechanical low back pain; Minimal interventional procedures; Multidisciplinary pain programme; Economic evaluation
3.  Back Complaints in the Elders (BACE); design of cohort studies in primary care: an international consortium 
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC3182961  PMID: 21854620
4.  Taping patients with clinical signs of subacromial impingement syndrome: the design of a randomized controlled trial 
Shoulder problems are a common complaint of the musculoskeletal system. Physical therapists treat these patients with different modalities such as exercise, massage, and shoulder taping. Although different techniques have been described, the effectiveness of taping has not yet been established. The aim of this study is to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of usual physical therapy care in combination with a particular tape technique for subacromial impingement syndrome of the shoulder compared to usual physical therapy care without this tape technique in a primary healthcare setting.
Methods and design
An economic evaluation alongside a randomized controlled trial will be conducted. A sample of 140 patients between 18 and 65 years of age with a diagnosis of subacromial impingement syndrome (SAIS) as assessed by physical therapists will be recruited. Eligible patients will be randomized to either the intervention group (usual care in combination with the particular tape technique) or the control group (usual care without this tape technique). In both groups, usual care will consist of individualized physical therapy care. The primary outcomes will be shoulder-specific function (the Simple Shoulder Test) and pain severity (11-point numerical rating scale). The economic evaluation will be performed using a societal perspective. All relevant costs will be registered using cost diaries. Utilities (Quality Adjusted Life Years) will be measured using the EuroQol. The data will be collected at baseline, and 4, 12, and 26 weeks follow-up.
This pragmatic study will provide information about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of taping in patients presenting with clinical signs of SAIS.
Trial registration
Trial registration number: NTR2575
PMCID: PMC3173405  PMID: 21849055
5.  The cost-effectiveness of the RSI QuickScan intervention programme for computer workers: Results of an economic evaluation alongside a randomised controlled trial 
The costs of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms are high. In order to decrease these costs employers implement interventions aimed at reducing these symptoms. One frequently used intervention is the RSI QuickScan intervention programme. It establishes a risk profile of the target population and subsequently advises interventions following a decision tree based on that risk profile. The purpose of this study was to perform an economic evaluation, from both the societal and companies' perspective, of the RSI QuickScan intervention programme for computer workers. In this study, effectiveness was defined at three levels: exposure to risk factors, prevalence of arm, shoulder and neck symptoms, and days of sick leave.
The economic evaluation was conducted alongside a randomised controlled trial (RCT). Participating computer workers from 7 companies (N = 638) were assigned to either the intervention group (N = 320) or the usual care group (N = 318) by means of cluster randomisation (N = 50). The intervention consisted of a tailor-made programme, based on a previously established risk profile. At baseline, 6 and 12 month follow-up, the participants completed the RSI QuickScan questionnaire. Analyses to estimate the effect of the intervention were done according to the intention-to-treat principle. To compare costs between groups, confidence intervals for cost differences were computed by bias-corrected and accelerated bootstrapping.
The mean intervention costs, paid by the employer, were 59 euro per participant in the intervention and 28 euro in the usual care group. Mean total health care and non-health care costs per participant were 108 euro in both groups. As to the cost-effectiveness, improvement in received information on healthy computer use as well as in their work posture and movement was observed at higher costs. With regard to the other risk factors, symptoms and sick leave, only small and non-significant effects were found.
In this study, the RSI QuickScan intervention programme did not prove to be cost-effective from the both the societal and companies' perspective and, therefore, this study does not provide a financial reason for implementing this intervention. However, with a relatively small investment, the programme did increase the number of workers who received information on healthy computer use and improved their work posture and movement.
Trial registration
Trial registration number: NTR1117
PMCID: PMC2994546  PMID: 21070621
6.  Manipulative therapy in addition to usual medical care accelerates recovery of shoulder complaints at higher costs: economic outcomes of a randomized trial 
Shoulder complaints are common in primary care and have unfavourable long term prognosis. Our objective was to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of manipulative therapy of the cervicothoracic spine and the adjacent ribs in addition to usual medical care (UMC) by the general practitioner in the treatment of shoulder complaints.
This economic evaluation was conducted alongside a randomized trial in primary care. Included were 150 patients with shoulder complaints and a dysfunction of the cervicothoracic spine and adjacent ribs. Patients were treated with UMC (NSAID's, corticosteroid injection or referral to physical therapy) and were allocated at random (yes/no) to manipulative therapy (manipulation and mobilization). Patient perceived recovery, severity of main complaint, shoulder pain, disability and general health were outcome measures. Data about direct and indirect costs were collected by means of a cost diary.
Manipulative therapy as add-on to UMC accelerated recovery on all outcome measures included. At 26 weeks after randomization, both groups reported similar recovery rates (41% vs. 38%), but the difference between groups in improvement of severity of the main complaint, shoulder pain and disability sustained. Compared to the UMC group the total costs were higher in the manipulative group (€1167 vs. €555). This is explained mainly by the costs of the manipulative therapy itself and the higher costs due sick leave from work. The cost effectiveness ratio showed that additional manipulative treatment is more costly but also more effective than UMC alone. The cost-effectiveness acceptability curve shows that a 50%-probability of recovery with AMT within 6 months after initiation of treatment is achieved at €2876.
Manipulative therapy in addition to UMC accelerates recovery and is more effective than UMC alone on the long term, but is associated with higher costs.
International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number Register
PMCID: PMC2944217  PMID: 20819223
7.  The cost-effectiveness of a treatment-based classification system for low back pain: design of a randomised controlled trial and economic evaluation 
Systematic reviews have shown that exercise therapy and spinal manipulation are both more effective for low back pain (LBP) than no treatment at all. However, the effects are at best modest. To enhance the clinical outcomes, recommendations are to improve the patient selection process, and to identify relevant subgroups to guide clinical decision-making. One of the systems that has potentials to improve clinical decision-making is a treatment-based classification system that is intended to identify those patients who are most likely to respond to direction-specific exercises, manipulation, or stabilisation exercises.
The primary aim of this randomised controlled trial will be to assess the effectiveness of a classification-based system. A sample of 150 patients with subacute and chronic LBP who attend a private physical therapy clinic for treatment will be recruited. At baseline, all participants will undergo a standard evaluation by trained research physical therapists and will be classified into one of the following subgroups: direction-specific exercises, manipulation, or stabilisation. The patient will not be informed about the results of the examination. Patients will be randomly assigned to classification-based treatment or usual care according to the Dutch LBP guidelines, and will complete questionnaires at baseline, and 8, 26, and 52 weeks after the start of the treatment. The primary outcomes will be general perceived recovery, functional status, and pain intensity. Alongside this trial, an economic evaluation of cost-effectiveness and cost-utility will be conducted from a societal perspective.
The present study will contribute to our knowledge about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of classification-based treatment in patients with LBP.
Trial registration
Trial registration number: NTR1176
PMCID: PMC2859390  PMID: 20346133
8.  The effectiveness and cost-evaluation of manual therapy and physical therapy in patients with sub-acute and chronic non specific neck pain. Rationale and design of a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) 
Manual Therapy applied to patients with non specific neck pain has been investigated several times. In the Netherlands, manual therapy as applied according to the Utrecht School of Manual Therapy (MTU) has not been the subject of a randomized controlled trial. MTU differs in diagnoses and treatment from other forms of manual therapy.
This is a single blind randomized controlled trial in patients with sub-acute and chronic non specific neck pain. Patients with neck complaints existing for two weeks (minimum) till one year (maximum) will participate in the trial. 180 participants will be recruited in thirteen primary health care centres in the Netherlands.
The experimental group will be treated with MTU during a six week period. The control group will be treated with physical therapy (standard care, mainly active exercise therapy), also for a period of six weeks.
Primary outcomes are Global Perceived Effect (GPE) and functional status (Neck Disability Index (NDI-DV)). Secondary outcomes are neck pain (Numeric Rating Scale (NRS)), Eurocol, costs and quality of life (SF36).
This paper presents details on the rationale of MTU, design, methods and operational aspects of the trial.
Trial registration Identifier: NCT00713843
PMCID: PMC2822827  PMID: 20096136
9.  Cost-effectiveness of the SEN-concept: Specialized Emergency Nurses (SEN) treating ankle/foot injuries 
Emergency Departments (EDs) are confronted with progressive overcrowding. As a consequence, the workload for ED physicians increases and waiting times go up with the risk of unnecessary complications and patient dissatisfaction. To cope with these problems, Specialized Emergency Nurses (SENs), regular ED-nurses receiving a short, injury-specific course, were trained to assess and treat minor injuries according to a specific protocol.
An economic evaluation was conducted alongside a randomized controlled trial comparing House Officers (HOs) and SENs in their assessment of ankle and foot injuries. Cost prices were established for all parts of healthcare utilization involved. Total costs of health care utilization were computed per patient in both groups. Cost-effectiveness was investigated by comparing the difference in total cost between groups with the difference in sensitivity and specificity between groups in diagnosing fractures and severe sprains. Finally, cost-effectiveness ratios were calculated and presented on a cost-effectiveness plane.
No significant differences were seen between treatment groups for any of the health care resources assessed. However, the waiting times for both first assessment by a treatment officer and time spent waiting between hearing the diagnosis and final treatment were significantly longer in the HO group. There was no statistically significant difference in costs between groups. The total costs were € 186 (SD € 623) for patients in the SEN group and € 153 (SD € 529) for patients in the HO group. The difference in total costs was € 33 (95% CI: – € 84 to € 155). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was € 27 for a reduction of one missed diagnosis and € 18 for a reduction of one false negative.
Considering the benefits of the SEN-concept in terms of decreased workload for the ED physicians, increased patient satisfaction and decreased waiting times, SENs appear to be a useful solution to the problem of ED crowding.
PMCID: PMC3225880  PMID: 17908322
10.  Surgery is more cost-effective than splinting for carpal tunnel syndrome in the Netherlands: results of an economic evaluation alongside a randomized controlled trial 
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common disorder, often treated with surgery or wrist splinting. The objective of this economic evaluation alongside a randomized trial was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of splinting and surgery for patients with CTS.
Patients at 13 neurological outpatient clinics with clinically and electrophysiologically confirmed idiopathic CTS were randomly allocated to splinting (n = 89) or surgery (n = 87). Clinical outcome measures included number of nights waking up due to symptoms, general improvement, severity of the main complaint, paraesthesia at night and during the day, and utility. The economic evaluation was performed from a societal perspective and involved all relevant costs.
There were no differences in costs. The mean total costs per patient were in the surgery group EURO 2,126 compared to EURO 2,111 in the splint group. After 12 months, the success rate in the surgery group (92%) was significantly higher than in the splint group (72%). The acceptability curve showed that at a relatively low ceiling ratio of EURO 2,500 per patient there is a 90% probability that surgery is cost-effective.
In the Netherlands, surgery is more cost-effective compared with splinting, and recommended as the preferred method of treatment for patients with CTS.
PMCID: PMC1660539  PMID: 17109748
11.  Costs of shoulder pain in primary care consulters: a prospective cohort study in The Netherlands 
Shoulder pain is common in primary care, and has an unfavourable outcome in many patients. Information on the costs associated with health care use and loss of productivity in patients with shoulder pain is very scarce. The objective of this study was to determine shoulder pain related costs during the 6 months after first consultation in general practice
A prospective cohort study consisting of 587 patients with a new episode of shoulder pain was conducted with a follow-up period of 6 months. Data on costs were collected by means of a cost diary during 6 months.
84% of the patients completed all cost diaries. The mean consumption of direct health care and non-health related care was low. During 6 months after first consultation for shoulder pain, the mean total costs a patient generated were €689. Almost 50% of this total concerned indirect costs, caused by sick leave from paid work. A small proportion (12%) of the population generated 74% of the total costs.
The total costs in the 6 months after first consultation for shoulder pain in primary care, mostly generated by a small part of the population, are not alarmingly high.
PMCID: PMC1635047  PMID: 17078883
12.  Rationale and design of The Delphi Trial – I(RCT)2: international randomized clinical trial of rheumatoid craniocervical treatment, an intervention-prognostic trial comparing 'early' surgery with conservative treatment [ISRCTN65076841] 
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease, which affects 1% of the population. Hands and feet are most commonly involved followed by the cervical spine. The spinal column consists of vertebrae stabilized by an intricate network of ligaments. Especially in the upper cervical spine, rheumatoid arthritis can cause degeneration of these ligaments, causing laxity, instability and subluxation of the vertebral bodies. Subsequent compression of the spinal cord and medulla oblongata can cause severe neurological deficits and even sudden death. Once neurological deficits occur, progression is inevitable although the rapidity of progression is highly variable. The first signs and symptoms are pain at the back of the head caused by compression of the major occipital nerve, followed by loss of strength of arms and legs. The severity of the subluxation can be observed with radiological investigations (MRI, CT) with a high sensitivity.
The authors have sent a Delphi Questionnaire about the current treatment strategies of craniocervical involvement by rheumatoid arthritis to an international forum of expert rheumatologists and surgeons. The timing of surgery in patients with radiographic instability without evidence of neurological deficit is an area of considerable controversy. If signs and symptoms of myelopathy are present there is little chance of recovery to normal levels after surgery.
In this international multicenter randomized clinical trial, early surgical atlantoaxial fixation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and radiological abnormalities without neurological deficits will be compared with prolonged conservative treatment. The main research question is whether early surgery can prevent radiological and neurological progression. A cost-effectivity analysis will be performed. 250 patients are needed to answer the research question.
Early surgery could prevent serious neurological deficits, but may have peri-operative morbidity and loss of rotation of the head and neck. The objective of this study is to identify the best timing of surgery for patients at risk for the development of neurological signs and symptoms.
PMCID: PMC1420300  PMID: 16483360
13.  Cost-effectiveness of an intensive group training protocol compared to physiotherapy guideline care for sub-acute and chronic low back pain: design of a randomised controlled trial with an economic evaluation. [ISRCTN45641649] 
Low back pain is a common disorder in western industrialised countries and the type of treatments for low back pain vary considerably.
In a randomised controlled trial the cost-effectiveness and cost-utility of an intensive group training protocol versus physiotherapy guideline care for sub-acute and chronic low back pain patients is evaluated. Patients with back pain for longer than 6 weeks who are referred to physiotherapy care by their general practitioner or medical specialist are included in the study. The intensive group training protocol combines exercise therapy with principles of behavioural therapy ("graded activity") and back school. This training protocol is compared to physiotherapy care according to the recently published Low Back Pain Guidelines of the Royal Dutch College for Physiotherapy. Primary outcome measures are general improvement, pain intensity, functional status, work absenteeism and quality of life. The direct and indirect costs will be assessed using cost diaries. Patients will complete questionnaires at baseline and 6, 13, 26 and 52 weeks after randomisation.
No trials are yet available that have evaluated the effect of an intensive group training protocol including behavioural principles and back school in a primary physiotherapy care setting and no data on cost-effectiveness and cost-utility are available.
PMCID: PMC535932  PMID: 15560843

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