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Brace yourself! Have your say on a proposed new trial of braces for knee osteoarthritis

The numbers only tell part of the story. 170,000 hip and knee replacements each year. Almost one million people visiting their GP for help. Billions of pounds in lost productivity and other costs to the economy.

Behind the numbers on osteoarthritis, of course, are people living with osteoarthritis. The condition and its effects vary a lot from one person to another. But it can be difficult coping with pain and other symptoms (particularly in the face of sudden, unpredictable episodes), trying to maintain or adapt daily activities, and dealing with the frustration and uncertainty about the future.

Safe, effective treatments available in primary care are part of the solution.

The National Institute for Health Research recently called for a new trial of knee braces in primary care. Patients were involved in prioritising this topic. Here’s why,

“Osteoarthritis (OA) is often made worse by weight-bearing or biomechanical forces through an affected joint. Local support for the joint may improve pain and function. A large number of support devices are available to help people with OA, for example braces for OA of the knee. Their aim is to improve both function and symptoms. The cost of knee braces to the NHS each year is very high. However, there are very few large, pragmatic trials to demonstrate the efficacy of knee braces and there is little information available to guide healthcare professionals on which people would benefit most from these aids…”

We are a group of researchers working together with patient representatives. We are planning our knee brace trial. If funded, we would invite patients in Northumbria, Staffordshire, Cheshire, and Manchester to take part. We’d like to hear the views of Voice North members.

Professor George Peat
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology

Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre
Keele University

Discussion

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  • Pam McKie
    21st September 2017

    Having had one knee replaced five years ago successfully I now have severe problems with the left one. I have tried knee supports that I purchased to no effect can you tell me wether the knee braces you are intending to trail are different to the type available to purchase?

    gpeat (keele)
    27th September 2017

    Dear Pam, I'm sorry to hear that you got no benefit from a knee brace. To answer your question, our trial proposes to use off-the-shelf braces (not custom-made ones) which are currently available to purchase. The evidence from previous clinical trials is quite mixed and as your experience suggests, some people have found benefit while others have not. One issue might be getting the right brace for the type of knee osteoarthritis that a particular individual has. In our trial we plan to assess all patients with a clinical interview, physical examination, and X-rays of the knees to inform us which is likely to be the most appropriate type of brace to provide. The brace will be fitted by a trained physiotherapist. I hope that's a helpful response. Thanks again for your question, George

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