Validity of Combining History Elements and Physical Examination Tests to Diagnose Patellofemoral Pain

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2018 Apr;99(4):607-614.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2017.10.014. Epub 2017 Nov 9.


Objective: To assess the validity of diagnostic clusters combining history elements and physical examination tests to diagnose or exclude patellofemoral pain (PFP).

Design: Prospective diagnostic study.

Settings: Orthopedic outpatient clinics, family medicine clinics, and community-dwelling.

Participants: Consecutive patients (N=279) consulting one of the participating orthopedic surgeons (n=3) or sport medicine physicians (n=2) for any knee complaint.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measures: History elements and physical examination tests were obtained by a trained physiotherapist blinded to the reference standard: a composite diagnosis including both physical examination tests and imaging results interpretation performed by an expert physician. Penalized logistic regression (least absolute shrinkage and selection operator) was used to identify history elements and physical examination tests associated with the diagnosis of PFP, and recursive partitioning was used to develop diagnostic clusters. Diagnostic accuracy measures including sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and positive and negative likelihood ratios with associated 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated.

Results: Two hundred seventy-nine participants were evaluated, and 75 had a diagnosis of PFP (26.9%). Different combinations of history elements and physical examination tests including the age of participants, knee pain location, difficulty descending stairs, patellar facet palpation, and passive knee extension range of motion were associated with a diagnosis of PFP and used in clusters to accurately discriminate between individuals with PFP and individuals without PFP. Two diagnostic clusters developed to confirm the presence of PFP yielded a positive likelihood ratio of 8.7 (95% CI, 5.2-14.6) and 3 clusters to exclude PFP yielded a negative likelihood ratio of .12 (95% CI, .06-.27).

Conclusions: Diagnostic clusters combining common history elements and physical examination tests that can accurately diagnose or exclude PFP compared to various knee disorders were developed. External validation is required before clinical use.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Knee; Patellofemoral pain syndrome; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee / pathology
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking / methods
  • Medical History Taking / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedics / methods*
  • Patellofemoral Joint / pathology
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Physical Examination / methods
  • Physical Examination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Syndrome

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