A randomised, controlled trial of circumpatellar electrocautery in total knee replacement without patellar resurfacing

H. P. W. van Jonbergen, V. A. B. Scholtes, A. van Kampen, R. W. Poolman

Abstract

The efficacy of circumpatellar electrocautery in reducing the incidence of post-operative anterior knee pain is unknown. We conducted a single-centre, outcome-assessor and patient-blinded, parallel-group, randomised, controlled trial to compare circumpatellar electrocautery with no electrocautery in total knee replacement in the absence of patellar resurfacing. Patients requiring knee replacement for primary osteoarthritis were randomly assigned circumpatellar electrocautery (intervention group) or no electrocautery (control group). The primary outcome measure was the incidence of anterior knee pain. A secondary measure was the standardised clinical and patient-reported outcomes determined by the American Knee Society scores and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) osteoarthritis index. A total of 131 knees received circumpatellar electrocautery and 131 had no electrocautery.

The overall incidence of anterior knee pain at follow-up at one year was 26% (20% to 31%), with 19% (12% to 26%) in the intervention group and 32% (24% to 40%) in the control group (p = 0.02). The relative risk reduction from electrocautery was 40% (9% to 61%) and the number needed to treat was 7.7 (4.3 to 41.4). The intervention group had a better mean total WOMAC score at follow-up at one year compared with the control group (16.3 (0 to 77.7) versus 21.6 (0 to 76.7), p = 0.04). The mean post-operative American Knee Society knee scores and function scores were similar in the intervention and control groups (knee score: 92.4 (55 to 100) versus 90.4 (51 to 100), respectively (p = 0.14); function score: 86.5 (15 to 100) versus 84.5 (30 to 100), respectively (p = 0.49)).

Our study suggests that in the absence of patellar resurfacing electrocautery around the margin of the patella improves the outcome of total knee replacement.

  • Received December 20, 2010.
  • Accepted April 12, 2011.
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