The clinical effect of an unloader brace on patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, a randomized placebo controlled trial with one year follow upHjörtur F. Hjartarson and Sören Toksvig-Larsen
Treatment of patients with knee osteoarthritis is challenging. Unloader braces have been developed with various success. Unloader One® Knee Brace is light, easily-fitted and shown to be effective by the unloading of the affected compartment. The aim of the study was to assess the clinical outcome of the brace vs. a placebo on patients with knee osteoarthritis.
Initially 150 patients were randomized to receive either the Unloader brace or a control placebo group look-alike brace where the active strips had been removed. The patients were followed up at 6,12,26 and 52 weeks with Knee Society Score (KSS) and Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS). The reason for dropout was recorded.
A total of 149 patients were included, 74 in the study and 75 in the control group. The mean age was 59.6 vs. 60.2, BMI was 27.5 vs. 26.9, 37% vs. 44% were women in the study vs. control group. Both groups showed improvement in KSS over 52 weeks, with the study group showing higher improvement in mean scores. KSS increased from 64.3 to 84.0 for the study group and from 64.0 to 74.6 for the control group (p = 0.009). The study group improved in KSS function from 67.0 to 78.6 (p < 0.001) and KOOS for knee related symptoms increased/improved from 64.3 to 72.4 (p < 0.001). Activity of daily living increased/improved from 65.3 to 75.2 and Sports/Recreation from 24.6 to 40.2 (p > 0.001) whereas the control group did not show significant improvements in any of the scores. The dropout was higher in the control group, 40 vs. 25.
The brace seems to be more effective and better tolerated than the placebo.
The trial was retrospectively registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03454776) on March 6th 2018.