Background and purpose: The optimal treatment for isolated patellofemoral osteoarthritis is unclear at present. We systematically reviewed the highest level of available evidence on the nonoperative and operative treatment of isolated patellofemoral osteoarthritis to develop an evidenced-based discussion of treatment options.
Methods: A systematic computerized database search (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE (PubMed), and EMBASE) was performed in March 2009. The quality of the studies was assessed independently by two authors using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach.
Results: We extracted data from 44 articles. The best available evidence for treatment of isolated patellofemoral osteoarthritis is sparse and of generally low methodological quality. Nonoperative treatment using physiotherapy (GRADE: high quality, weak recommendation for use), taping (GRADE: moderate quality, weak recommendation for use), or injection therapy (GRADE: very low quality, weak recommendation for use) may result in short-term relief. Joint-preserving surgical treatment may result in insufficient, unpredictable, or only short-term improvement (GRADE: low quality, weak recommendation against use). Total knee replacement with patellar resurfacing results in predictable and good, durable results (GRADE: low quality, weak recommendation for use). Outcome after patellofemoral arthroplasty in selected patients is good to excellent (GRADE: low quality, weak recommendation for use).
Interpretation: Methodologically good quality comparative studies, preferably using a patient-relevant outcome instrument, are needed to establish the optimal treatment strategy for patients with isolated patellofemoral osteoarthritis.