Objective: To evaluate the efficacy of joint lavage and intraarticular steroid injection, alone and in combination, in the treatment of patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: Ninety-eight patients with painful tibiofemoral OA were enrolled in a prospective, randomized, controlled, 2 x 2 factorial-design trial of 6 months' duration. The 4 treatment groups consisted of 1) intraarticular placebo (1.5 ml of 0.9% normal saline), 2) intraarticular corticosteroids (3.75 mg of cortivazol in 1.5 ml), 3) joint lavage and intraarticular placebo, and 4) joint lavage and intraarticular corticosteroid. Outcome measures evaluated at baseline, week 1, week 4, week 12, and week 24 included severity of pain (100-mm visual analog scale [VAS]), global status (100-mm VAS), and Lequesne's functional index.
Results: No interaction between steroid injection and joint lavage was demonstrated. Patients who had undergone joint lavage had significantly improved pain VAS scores at week 24 (P = 0.020). In contrast, corticosteroid injection had no long-term effect (P = 0.313); corticosteroid injection was associated with a decrease in pain only at week 1 (P = 0.003) and week 4 (P = 0.020). After week 4, Lequesne's functional index was not significantly improved regardless of the assigned treatment.
Conclusion: Compared with placebo, both treatments significantly relieved pain but did not improve functional impairment. The effects of the 2 treatments were additive. Cortivazol provided short-term relief of pain (up to week 4). The effects of joint lavage persisted up to week 24.