Patient Care

Total Knee Replacement Superior to Non-Surgical Intervention


Clinical question: Does total knee replacement followed by a 12-week non-surgical treatment program provide greater pain relief and improvement in function and quality of life than non-surgical treatment alone?

Background: The number of total knee replacements in the U.S. has increased dramatically since the 1970s and is expected to continue to rise. To date, evidence to support the effectiveness of surgical intervention compared to non-surgical intervention is lacking.

Study design: Randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: Aalborg University Hospital Outpatient Clinics, Denmark.

Synopsis: One hundred patients with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to undergo total knee replacement followed by 12 weeks of non-surgical treatment or to receive only 12 weeks of non-surgical treatment. The non-surgical treatment program consisted of exercise, education, dietary advice, insoles, and pain medication. Change from baseline to 12 months was assessed using the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS).

The total knee replacement group had a significantly greater improvement in the KOOS score than did the non-surgical group. Serious adverse events were more common in the total knee replacement group.

The study did not include a sham-surgery control group. It is unknown whether the KOOS pain subscale is generalizable to patients with severe pain. Additionally, the intensity of non-surgical treatment may have differed between groups.

Bottom line: Total knee replacement followed by non-surgical treatment is more efficacious than non-surgical treatment alone in providing pain relief and improving function and quality of life, but it is associated with higher number of adverse events.

Citation: Skou ST, Roos EM, Laursen MB, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of total knee replacement. N Engl J Med. 2015;373(17):1597-1606.

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