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Pulsed Electrical Stimulation As Effective As Placebo

Pulsed electrical stimulation offers no improvement over placebo for osteoarthritis of the knee

THURSDAY, March 10 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee who suffer from mild to moderate symptoms, 26 weeks of pulsed electrical stimulation (PES) therapy is no more effective than placebo, according to a study published online Feb. 10 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Robyn E. Fary, from Curtin University in Bentley, Australia, and colleagues evaluated the effectiveness of subsensory PES for management of osteoarthritis symptoms in the knee. Of the patients, 34 were randomized to PES and 36 to placebo. The primary outcome measured was change in pain over 26 weeks, measured on a 100 mm pain visual analog scale (VAS). Other changes in function, physical activity, and quality of life were also assessed.

The researchers found that according to intention-to-treat analysis, both groups had a significant improvement in pain VAS, but there was no difference between the groups. There were no inter-group differences in pain, function, or stiffness scores according to Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index or any other measures. In the PES group, 56 percent of patients reported an improvement in pain VAS at 26 weeks, compared to 44 percent of the placebo group (P = 0.47).

"In this sample with mild to moderate symptoms and moderate to severe X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis of the knee, PES was no more effective than placebo in achieving improvements in pain, function, quality of life, or physical activity. Results of this study therefore do not support more widespread use of this modality," the authors write.

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