A new pair of plain-language guides from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Rockville, Md, examines the effectiveness, safety, and adverse effects of various treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee, including glucosamine and chondroitin, fluid injections, arthroscopic surgery, pain medications, and other approaches. Separate guides are available for patients and clinicians.

The guides summarize the results of a new report that addresses several questions: How effective are glucosamine and chondroitin for osteoarthritis of the knee? Will losing weight and staying active help the condition? Are there side effects and risks associated with shots or arthroscopic surgery?

AHRQ’s new consumer guide, Osteoarthritis of the Knee – A Guide for Adults defines the chronic and often debilitating condition. It is written to assist patients who seek answers to basic questions, and to guide them when they discuss treatment options with their clinicians.

The clinician guide, Three Treatments for Osteoarthritis of the Knee: Evidence Shows Lack of Benefit, includes the same information but has been designed for people with a clinical background. The clinician guide includes a confidence scale that rates the available evidence.

Among the guides’ conclusions: Evidence shows that some common treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee are not helpful and may have side effects. Glucosamine and chondroitin, for example, were not shown to offer improvement and can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and headache. Fluid injections don’t reduce pain or improve movement and can cause swelling, minor infection, and pain. Arthroscopic surgery does little to reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis and can result in more pain, swelling, infection, and blood clots in the legs.

The guides also point out that getting and staying physically active can help reduce pain and allow for easier joint movement. Losing weight is recommended to take stress off of knees. Some prescription and over-the-counter medications, including NSAIDs, have been found to help relieve the pain of knee osteoarthritis.

[Source: Newswise]