Methodological considerations for a randomised controlled trial of podiatry care in rheumatoid arthritis: lessons from an exploratory trial.
Turner DE, Helliwell PS, Woodburn J.
BMC Musculoskelet Disord
. 2007 Nov 6;8(1):109 [Epub ahead of print]
BACKGROUND: Whilst evidence exists to support the use of single treatments such as orthoses and footwear, the effectiveness of podiatry-led care as a complex intervention for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) related foot problems is unknown. The aim of this study was to undertake an exploratory randomised controlled parallel arm clinical trial (RheumAFooT) to inform the design and implementation of a definitive trial and to understand the potential benefits of this care.
METHODS: Patients with a definite diagnosis of RA, stable drug management 3 months prior to entry, and a current history of foot problems (pain, deformity, stiffness, skin or nail lesions, or footwear problems) were recruited from a hospital outpatient rheumatology clinic and randomised to receive 12 months of podiatry treatment or no care. The primary outcome was change in foot health status using the impairment/footwear (LFISIF) and activity limitation/participation restriction (LFISAP) subscales of the Leeds Foot Impact Scale. Disease Activity Score (DAS), Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) score and walking speed (m/s) were also recorded.
RESULTS: Of the 80 patients identified, 64 patients were eligible to participate in the pilot and 34 were recruited. 16 patients were randomised to receive podiatry led foot care and 18 received no care. Against a backdrop of stable disease (DAS and HAQ scores), there was a statistically significant between group difference in the change in foot health status for foot impairment (LFISIF) but not activity/participation (LFISAP) or function (walking speed) over 12 months. In the podiatry arm, 1 patient declined treatment following randomisation (did not want additional hospital visits) and 3 self-withdrew (lost to follow-up). Patients received an average of 3 consultations for assessment and treatment comprising routine care for skin and nail lesions (n=3), foot orthoses (n=9), footwear referral to the orthotist (n=5), and ultrasound guided intra-articular steroid injection (n=1).
CONCLUSIONS: In this exploratory trial patients were difficult to recruit (stable drug management and co-morbid disease) and retain (lack of benefit/additional treatment burden) but overall the intervention was safe (no adverse reactions). Twelve months of podiatry care maintained but did not improve foot health status. These observations are important for the design and implementation of a definitive randomised controlled trial.