Exercise therapy for degenerative meniscal tears in the primary care - a feasibility cluster randomised controlled trial

Knee pain due to a degenerative meniscal tear is a common joint condition seen in Irish orthopaedic clinics. Changes to the knee joint and meniscus (cartilage within the knee that helps cushion the joint) occur normally with age but can become painful in some middle-aged adults. Exercise is recommended as the main treatment to aid recovery, while an arthroscopy (camera in the knee) to remove torn cartilage does not provide any additional benefit. Despite this many patients in Ireland with degenerative meniscal tears are referred to an orthopaedic surgeon by their GP. Meanwhile exercise in an underused treatment, according to interviews with patients carried out by our research team.

The overall aim of this project is to improve how people with degenerative meniscal tears are managed in the community setting by their GP, and provide them with a good quality exercise programme. This could ultimately reduce the numbers referred to hospital orthopaedic clinics by their doctors. In preparation for carrying out a larger research study to test this theory, this project will run a smaller study to ensure treatment can be delivered as planned and it is acceptable to patients and GPs. Firstly GPs will be interviewed to gain insight into how they treat this knee problem. An educational programme will be designed for GPs with input from a panel of interested parties (patients and doctors, physiotherapists and managers). Next, this educational programme and an exercise class specifically designed for degenerative meniscal tears will be tested out on approximately 12 GPs and 32 of their patients. Any changes in their symptoms will be compared to a group who are managed as usual by their doctor. Finally all GPs and patients will complete a satisfaction survey with some patients and doctors providing more in-depth feedback over the telephone.

Award Date
26 June 2020
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Dr Helen O'Leary
Host Institution
University of Limerick
CSF 2020