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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Kettunen 2007.

Knee surgery no better than exercise for patellofemoral pain

updated
Kettunen JA, Harilainen A, Sandelin J, Schlenzka D, Hietaniemi K, Seitsalo S, Malmivaara A, Kujala UM. Knee arthroscopy and exercise versus exercise only for chronic patellofemoral pain syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Med. 2007;5:38. PubMed #18078506.
Tags: treatment, surgery, patellar pain, arthritis, aging, pain problems, knee, leg, limbs, overuse injury, injury, running, exercise, self-treatment

PainSci summary of Kettunen 2007?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

This study compared the effects of surgery (arthroscopy) plus exercise (an 8 week home program) with exercise alone (same program), to see if surgery added any benefit. It didn’t.

Arthroscopy refers to surgery that is guided in real time with imaging. In other words, you stick a camera in there and look around, fixing what you find. What surgical technique follows depends on what is found: “resection of inflamed/scarred medial plicae, abrasion of chondral lesions and shaving of excessive and inflamed synovium. Minor corrections of the patellofemoral articulation were performed, such as lateral capsular discision in the case of clear lateral patellar subluxation in the beginning of knee flexion. Moreover, possible meniscal tears were treated.”

At the end of the study, both groups improved significantly … but surgery did no better! These patients were checked on again 5 years later (see Kettunen): same same. Surgery didn’t help at all, short term or long.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Arthroscopy is often used to treat patients with chronic patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). As there is a lack of evidence, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to study the efficacy of arthroscopy in patients with chronic PFPS.

METHODS: A total of 56 patients with chronic PFPS were randomized into two treatment groups: an arthroscopy group (N = 28), treated with knee arthroscopy and an 8-week home exercise program, and a control group (N = 28), treated with the 8-week home exercise program only. The arthroscopy included finding-specific surgical procedures according to current recommendations. The primary outcome was the Kujala score on patellofemoral pain and function at 9 months following randomization. Secondary outcomes were visual analog scales (VASs) to assess activity-related symptoms. We also estimated the direct healthcare costs.

RESULTS: Both groups showed marked improvement during the follow-up. The mean improvement in the Kujala score was 12.9 (95% confidence interval (CI) 8.2-17.6) in the arthroscopy group and 11.4 (95% CI 6.9-15.8) in the control group. However, there was no difference between the groups in mean improvement in the Kujala score (group difference 1.1 (95% CI -7.4 - 5.2)) or in any of the VAS scores. Total direct healthcare costs in the arthroscopy group were estimated to exceed on average those of the control group by euro901 per patient (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: In this controlled trial involving patients with chronic PFPS, the outcome when arthroscopy was used in addition to a home exercise program was no better than when the home exercise program was used alone.

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