We assessed the efficacy and tolerability of low-frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) therapy in patients with clinically symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA) in a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind study of six weeks’ duration. Patients with radiographic evidence and symptoms of OA (incompletely relieved by conventional treatments), according to the criteria of the American College of Rheumatology, were recruited from a single tertiary referral centre. 75 patients fulfilling the above criteria were randomised to receive active PEMF treatment by unipolar magnetic devices (Medicur) manufactured by Snowden Healthcare (Nottingham, UK) or placebo. Six patients failed to attend after the screening and were excluded from analysis. The primary outcome measure was reduction in overall pain assessed on a four-point Likert scale ranging from nil to severe. Secondary outcome measures included the WOMAC Osteoarthritis Index (Likert scale) and the EuroQol (Euro-Quality of Life, EQ-5D). Baseline assessments showed that the treatment groups were equally matched. Although there were no significant differences between active and sham treatment groups in respect of any outcome measure after treatment, paired analysis of the follow-up observations on each patient showed significant improvements in the actively treated group in the WOMAC global score (p = 0.018), WOMAC pain score (p = 0.065), WOMAC disability score (p = 0.019) and EuroQol score (p = 0.001) at study end compared to baseline. In contrast, there were no improvements in any variable in the placebo-treated group. There were no clinically relevant adverse effects attributable to active treatment. These results suggest that the Medicur unipolar magnetic devices are beneficial in reducing pain and disability in patients with knee OA resistant to conventional treatment in the absence of significant side-effects. Further studies using different types of magnetic devices, treatment protocols and patient populations are warranted to confirm the general efficacy of PEMF therapy in OA and other conditions.
Curr Med Res Opin 2001;17(3):190-6
Pipitone N, Scott DL.
Rheumatology Department, King’s College Hospital (Dulwich), London, UK.