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.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN 41800323.