A randomized, controlled trial of total knee replacement

Total knee replacement followed by non-surgical management (exercise, education, dietary advice, use of insoles, pain medication) is superior to non-surgical management alone for improving knee pain and function at one-year follow-up in patients with end-stage knee osteoarthritis

Skou ST, Roos EM, Laursen MB, Rathleff MS, Arendt‑Nielsen L, Simonsen O, Rasmussen S

N Engl J Med 2015

BACKGROUND: More than 670,000 total knee replacements are performed annually in the United States; however, high-quality evidence to support the effectiveness of the procedure, as compared with nonsurgical interventions, is lacking.

METHODS: In this randomized, controlled trial, we enrolled 100 patients with moderate-tosevere knee osteoarthritis who were eligible for unilateral total knee replacement. Patients were randomly assigned to undergo total knee replacement followed by 12 weeks of nonsurgical treatment (total-knee-replacement group) or to receive only the 12 weeks of nonsurgical treatment (nonsurgical-treatment group), which was delivered by physiotherapists and dietitians and consisted of exercise, education, dietary advice, use of insoles, and pain medication. The primary outcome was the change from baseline to 12 months in the mean score on four Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score subscales, covering pain, symptoms, activities of daily living, and quality of life (KOOS4); scores range from 0 (worst) to 100 (best).

RESULTS: A total of 95 patients completed the 12-month follow-up assessment. In the nonsurgical-treatment group, 13 patients (26%) underwent total knee replacement before the 12-month follow-up; in the total-knee-replacement group, 1 patient (2%) received only nonsurgical treatment. In the intention-to-treat analysis, the total-kneereplacement group had greater improvement in the KOOS4 score than did the nonsurgical-treatment group (32.5 vs. 16.0; adjusted mean difference, 15.8 [95% confidence interval, 10.0 to 21.5]). The total-knee-replacement group had a higher number of serious adverse events than did the nonsurgical-treatment group (24 vs. 6, P = 0.005).

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with knee osteoarthritis who were eligible for unilateral total knee replacement, treatment with total knee replacement followed by nonsurgical treatment resulted in greater pain relief and functional improvement after 12 months than did nonsurgical treatment alone. However, total knee replacement was associated with a higher number of serious adverse events than was nonsurgical treatment, and most patients who were assigned to receive nonsurgical treatment alone did not undergo total knee replacement before the 12-month follow-up.

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