Background: Patellofemoral complaints are frequently seen in younger and active patients. Clinical strategy is usually based on decreasing provoking activities as sports and demanding knee activities during work and leisure and reassuring the patient on the presumed good outcome. Exercise therapy is also often prescribed although evidence on effectiveness is lacking. The objective of this article is to present the design of a randomized clinical trial that examines the outcome of exercise therapy supervised by a physical therapist versus a clinically accepted "wait and see" approach (information and advice about the complaints only). The research will address to both effectiveness and cost effectiveness of supervised exercise therapy in patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).
Methods/design: 136 patients (adolescents and young adults) with patellofemoral pain syndrome are recruited in general practices and sport medicine centers. They will be randomly allocated receiving either 3 months of exercise therapy (or usual care. The primary outcome measures are pain, knee function and perception of recovery after 3 months and 12 months of follow up and will be measured by self reporting. Measurements will take place at baseline, 6 weeks, and 3 monthly until 1 year after inclusion in the study. Secondary outcome measurements include an economic evaluation.A cost-utility analysis will be performed that expresses health improvements in Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) and incorporates direct medical costs and productivity costs
Discussion: This study has been designed after reviewing the literature on exercise therapy for patellofemoral pain syndrome. It was concluded that to merit the effect of exercise therapy a trial based on correct methodological concept needed to be executed. The PEX study is a randomized clinical trial where exercise therapy is compared to usual care. This trial started in April 2005 and will finish in June 2007. The first results will be available around December 2007.