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CASE STUDY 3 Knee Pain

Dated: 4 April 2007 (edited 13 December 2007)
Patient’s Name: Many Ow NIRC: S04*****E

1. Patient Profile 1
2. Health Assessment 1
3. Physical Examination 2
4. Diagnosis 3
5. Management 5
6. Evaluation 12
7. Learning points 13

A 73-year-old ambulant Chinese elderly came to polyclinic with a chief compliant of left knee
pain. This case study will focus on the approach to knee pain and management of knee pain in an

Elizabeth Ho Moon Liang Page 1
Mdm Mandy Ow, (S04*****E) born in year 1933 is a 73-year-old fully ambulant elderly. She
has DM for more than 10 years. In addition, she has IHD, hypertension and hyperlipidemia. She
came to polyclinic on 9 Jan 2007 with a chief complain of left knee pain. This case study will
focus of the approach to knee pain and management of knee pain in the elderly.

Chief Complaint: Complained of left knee pain for 2 to 3 weeks. Increasing in pain intensity for
5 days. Rated pain score 8 over 10. Pain was localized on the anterior aspect of the knee joint.
There was no history of trauma or sprain. Walking and climbing the stairs aggravated the pain.
The pain was partially relieved by resting There was no other prior history of knee pains. The
knee pain had affected her usual marketing trips. She complained of walking with a limp. No
other joint pains were reported. There was no reported locking, popping or giving way of the
knee. She noted that the left knee was mildly swollen in comparison to her right knee but could
not recall when it started. Morning stiffness of both knees was reported. Duration of stiffness
was less than 15 minutes and disappeared when she began activities. There was no fever.

Mdm Ow has no history of knee injury or surgery. She also has no history of gout, pseudogout,
rheumatoid arthritis or degenerative joint disease. She also has no family history of gout. Mdm
Ow stays with her daughter.

a) Aspirin 100mg every morning
b) Atenolol 50mg every morning
c) Amlodipine Besylate 5mg every morning
d) Captopril 25mg three times a day
e) Tolbultamide 250mg twice a day
f) Metformin 850mg three times a day
g) Lovastatin 20mg every night
h) Glyceryl Trinitrate 500mcg when necessary under tongue
i) Calcium and vitamin D 1 tablet every morning

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DRUG ALLERGY: Nil reported.

General appearance –. Comfortable. Has a BMI of 24.3. Afebrile.
Gait – Stable
Eyes – Conjunctivae not pallor. No conjunctivitis.
Face – No rashes.
a) CVS examination
Pulse – 78 beats per minute. Regular.
Blood Pressure – 140/ 90mmHg.
Heart – Apex beat palpable between 4th and 5th ribs space. No thrills and heave felt. S1 and S2
sounds heard. No murmurs detected. Jugular venous pressure is not raised. No pedal edema.
b) Lungs examination
Lungs – Respiration rate of 12 breaths per minute. Trachea is not deviated. Chest expansion is
bilaterally equal. No crepitations or wheeze heard. Vocal resonance is normal and uniform.
c) Knee examination
There is no erythema, bruising and discoloration of the left knee. There is also no point
tenderness. Slight budging is seen on the medial aspect of the left knee joint. Popliteal bulging is
seen at left knee posterior aspect.

Musculature of both knees seems symmetric bilaterally. There is no bone deformity. On
palpation, the left knee joint is not warm or tender. There is mild effusion felt. Range of
movement of the left knee is full. Crepitus on both legs were felt. Pedal pulses were all intact.

Probable diagnosis: Osteoarthritis of knees – acute exacerbation of left knee.
Differential diagnoses:
(1) Baker’s cyst
(2) Patellofemoral knee pain (periarticular)
(3) Degenerative Meniscus (intra-articular)
(4) Rheumatoid arthritis / Inflammatory arthritis

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Due to the significant popliteal bulging on the posterior left knee, Baker’s cyst was placed high
on the list of differentials. Other reasons to explain the politeal bulging can be due to an effusion
response to the osteophytes in an osteoarthritis knee joint.

Laboratory Tests
Radiographs of both knee joints (AP, lateral views)
The tibiofemoral and patellofemoral knee joint spaces are mildly reduced and associated with
large periarticular osteophytes and subchondral sclerosis. There is spiking of the tibial spine and
patellar poles. There is mild fullness of the suprapatellar region bilaterally, which may represent
minimal joint effusion. There is diffuse osteopenia.
Impression: Osteoartritis of both knee joints.

Due to the age of the patient, clinical history and the lack of knee joint erythema and warmth,
with the supporting evidence from the radiology report that this is most probably an osteoarthritis
exacerbation. Unless there is evidence of suspected inflammation, ESR, CRP, rheumatoid factor
and uric acid can be ordered to exclude rheumatoid arthritis and gout-related arthritis. When
there is no prior history, one will suspect gout if the patient has a family history of gout, or on
long-standing diuretic treatment (e.g. thiazide) and elderly in renal failure. In some elderly with
gout, the presentation manifests as nodular gout or tophaceous gout on skin and Achilles tendon
rather than the typical presentation of swollen and painful joints. However, if pain persists or
remains undiagnosed despite symptomatic treatment and clinical follow-up, it is best to refer to
rheumatology or orthopedic referral.

Prevalence of Diagnoses in Primary Care Setting
Sprains and strains account for 42% of the causes for knee pain. The prevalence of a diagnosis
among patients presenting with acute knee pain in the adult primary care setting is osteoarthritis
(34%), meniscal injuries (9%), collateral (7%), cruciate (4%) ligamentous injuries, gout (2%)
and fracture (1.2%) (Jackson, O’Malley and Kroenke, 2003). Rheumatoid arthritis (0.5%),
inflammatory arthritis (0.3%) and pseudogout (0.2%) are less common. Knowing the prevalence
of diagnoses for knee pain helps to framework the probable diagnosis and differentials. Yet for

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those diagnoses that are not very common, it is good to keep the differentials in mind especially
those which need urgent attention or different treatment e.g. fractures and septic arthritis.

Approach to Knee Pain
Clinical history taking for knee pain should include (1) characteristics of knee pain, (2)
mechanical symptoms (3) effusion and (4) mechanism of injury and (5) any other medical

Physical examination tests like Lachman maneuver, Anterior drawer test, Pivot shift test are tests
designed for detecting ligamentous tear. For meniscal injuries, they are detected through and
McMurray Test and supported by joint line tenderness tests (See Annex A). Role of APN is to
elicit possible ligament or meniscal injusry through history and screening with appropriate
physical examination. In some mensical tear cases, although there is no positive signs, patients
still need to be promptly referred to the physician in view of the history.

Thus a simple algorithm shown in Figure 1 can be used for an APN when approaching someone
with a knee pain.

Table 2 shows a set of clinical criteria for identifying osteoarthritis developed by American
College of Rheumatology (Jackson, O’Malley and Kroenke, 2003). This tool has a sensitivity of
95% and specificity of 69%. Another tool (Table 3) that is developed which had 91% sensitivity
and 86% specificity for osteoarthritis is based on clinical and radiographic findings.

The decision whether to order a plain radiograph of the knee will help to make the diagnosis.
Plain knee film is useful for osteoarthritis and for knee fracture. For this case study, the patient
has no background of osteoarthrtitis. The pain is presented sub-acute over the past 2 to 3 weeks
and increasing in intensity for the past 5 days. Although there is no presence of trauma, blow or
fall, in view of her age 73 years old and the pain intensity of 8 out of 10, a radiograph of the knee
joint is necessary to rule out fracture as a cause of acute knee pain. With other findings normal,
chronic osteoarthritis can also give rise to exacerbation of the condition that will present with
acute knee pain.

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History of trauma or injury?
Suspicion of ligamentous or Yes Order X-ray and
meniscus injury? refer Dr


History: Morning stiffness >1hr,
PE: Swollen, red and warm

Higher Index of Suspicion:
i) multiple joints involvement Yes Highly suggestive of
ii) history of gout or pseudogout inflammatory origin,
iii) history of rheumatoid arthritis refer Dr
iv) compromised immune system:
e.g. cancer, DM, HIV or on steroids


Fulfill 3 out of 5 American College Highly suggestive of
of Rheumatology Clinical Criteria Osteoarthritis
suggesting osteoarthritis APN follow protocol to furnish
Refer Dr for further examination.
Figure 1: Proposed Algorithm Approach to Knee Pain

At least 3 of the following:
a) Age more than 50 years
b) Morning stiffness of 30 minutes and less
Physical Examination
c) Crepitus
d) Bony enlargement
e) No palpable warmth
American College of Rheumatology (2003)
Table 2: Clinical Criteria for Osteoarthritis
a) Osteophytes
And at least 1 of 3:
Physical Examination
b) Age more than 50 years.
c) Crepitus
d) Morning stiffness of 30 minutes and less
American College of Rheumatology (2003)
Table 3: Clinical and Radiographic Criteria for Osteoarthritis

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For Baker cyst diagnosis besides clinical examination, the diagnosis needs to be confirmed by
imaging e.g. arthrography, ultrasound or MRI. The prevalence of Baker cyst in rheumatoid
arthritis, osteoarthritis and internal derangement is 5 to 58%, 42% and 5 to 18% respectively
(Bui-Mansfield and Youngberg, 2007). According to Fam et al, 1982 (cited in Bui-Mansfield and
Youngberg, 2007) the occurrence of Baker cysts relate directly to the presence of knee effusion
and severity of osteoarthritis. Still it is crucial that during the physical examination to determine
if the cyst is a simple Baker cyst or complicated Baker cyst. Any signs of redness, swelling or
increasing in size of the cyst should be referred to the doctor for further evaluation. For this case
study, Mdm Ow’s popliteal bulging is localized, and there are no signs of inflammation.

Treatment and Plans
Pain relief. Analgesics and NSAIDs are effective to most knee pain management. The American
College of Rheumatology recommends paracetamol as the first choice of analgesic in patients
with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis. The maximum dosage for paracetamol is 4000mg/day
(8 tablets of 500mg). Other analgesics with paracetamol can be tried e.g. Orphenadrine Citrate
35mg with Paracetamol 450mg and Paracetamol 500mg with Codeine 8mg. However these
preparations of paracetmol needed to use with caution because of the possible addition to
Orphenadrine and Codeine. It is important to remember that paracetamol dosage will lead to
liver toxicity due to the saturation of toxic metabolites. For this consultation, Mdm Ow is given a
week of Orphenadrine 35mg/ Paracetamol 450mg 2 tablets 3 times daily or when necessary.

Due to the presence of the Baker cyst and her increased pain intensity. NSAID is given to her to
reduce inflammation and pain. Ketoprofen SR capsule 100mg 1 capsule twice a day is
prescribed. Addition to that, topical Piroxicam 0.5% gel is also prescribed. The side effects of
NSAIDs should be a consideration before prescribing patient the NSAID treatment. Patient with
the following criteria listed in Table 4 should be considered prescribing COX-2 inhibitors over
the traditional NSAIDs for pain management. The differences in the rate of serious GI side
effects are most pronounced in patients with a history of peptic ulcer and gastrointestinal
bleeding according to University of Michigan Health System (2005).

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1) has a history of upper GI bleeding
2) is receiving chronic, high dose systemic corticosteroids
3) has presence of a bleeding disorder
4) is receiving anticoagulants
5) has a documented intolerance to traditional NSAIDs
6) elderly patients with multiple comorbidities

**Precaution: In patient with known coronary heart disease**
Table 4: COX-2 Criteria and Precaution

For this case although Mdm Ow is on Aspirin, she has no bleeding disorder or history of upper
GI bleeding. To prevent NSAIDs-induced gastrointestinal side effects, H2 antagonist Famotidine
is prescribed together. Proton pump inhibitors may also be considered to be prescribed together
to prevent NSAIDs-induced side effects. According to a systematic review that compared five
strategies, listed in Table 5, for the prevention of NSAIDs induced gastrointestinal toxicity,
traditional NSAID plus H2 antagonist is the most cost-effective strategy for avoiding endoscopic
ulcers in patients requiring long-term NSAID therapy (Health Technology Assessment, 2006).
1) Cox-1 NSAIDs plus H2 antagonists
2) Cox-1 NSAIDs plus PPIs
3) Cox-1 NSAIDs plus misoprostol
4) Cox-2 coxib NSAIDs
5) Cox-2 preferential NSAIDs
Table 5: 5 Strategies to prevent NSAID-induced GI toxicity compared in Systematic Review
(Health Technology Assessment, 2006)

Regarding the addition of topical NSAIDs in the treatment plan, there are studies that provide
evidence that topical NSAID is better than placebo. Besides the efficacy between topical
NSAIDs and oral NSAIDs is comparable with not much difference in the outcomes. The side
effects for topical NSAIDs are lower as topical NSAIDs do not cause the gastrointestinal harm
found with oral NSAIDs, nor are they associated with increased renal failure (Bandolier 110,
2007 and Mason et al, 2004). The topical NSAIDs used for comparison in the studies are
Piroxicam 0.5% gel, Diclofenac 1% gel and Eltenac 1% gel. Comparing the efficacy among the
topical analgesics in chronic musculoskeletal pain management, topical NSAIDs is more
effective than topical Salicylates and Capsaicin (Mason et al, 2004).

The list of medications that is prescribed to Mdm Ow is as below:
1) Orphenadrine 35mg/ Paracetamol 450mg 2 tablets 3 times a day when necessary

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2) Ketoprofen SR capsule 100mg 1 capsule twice a day
3) Famotidine 20mg 1 tablet twice a day
4) Topical Piroxicam 0.5% gel 30gram

Evidence for glucosamine and chondroitin in OA knee treatment. The place for glucosamine in
the treatment of OA knee has been debatable. Bandolier 46’s (2007) systematic review helped to
confirm the value of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis. Both glucosamine and
chondroitin appear to decrease pain and improve function than patients on placebo. Glucosamine
also significantly reduced joint space narrowing by about 0.27mm compared with placebo over 3
years. Furthermore, they are quite safe with few side effects, particularly in comparison to
NSAIDs. As many as 1 in 5 patients with knee arthritis will benefit from using oral glucosamine
at 1500mg daily. The recommended doses for Chondroitin range from 800 to 2000mg daily.

Non-Pharmacological Treatment. There were too few studies to draw firm conclusions to the
effectiveness of non-pharmacological treatment to relieve osteoarthritis exacerbation pain
(Bandolier, 2007). These studies of non-pharmacological interventions include superficial and
deep heat, cold, exercise, weight loss, acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation,
low energy laser vibration, topically applied creams, pulsed electromagnetic fields and orthotic
devices. The best evidence exists for exercise, which the trials that were conducted showed an
improvement in pain and functional status.

Long-term Management. The long-term management for Mdm Ow focuses on adequate calcium
and vitamin D intake, exercise and prevention of falls. During consultation, it is also important to
screen Mdm Ow is she has any risk factors for falling (Table 6) and other concomitant conditions
that increase risk of osteoporosis deterioration. This will give an overview of the patient’s profile
to see if more aggressive treatment in osteoporosis deterioration is needed.
According to UMHS (2005) guidelines, the recommended dose of calcium intake for an
individual, excluding food calcium, is from 1000 to 1500mg. Constipation is common for this
treatment and nephrolithiasis is not a contraindication. There is evidence that vitamin D
supplementation at relatively high doses 700 to 800IU/day reduces risk of hip fracture among
older mean and women aged 60 and above than at lower doses of 400IU/day. Sun exposure to
hands, arms and face for 10 to 30 minutes per day 2 to 3 times per week can be equivalent to

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400IU/day. The recommended tolerable upper intake level for vitamin D is 2000IU/day. Sun
exposure is unlikely to result in vitamin D toxicity.
· Use of any benzodiazepine or sedative/ hypnotic agent
· Frailty
· Environmental hazards for falls
· History of falls
· Impaired vision
· Impaired cognition
· Impaired gait, balance or transfer skills
· Impaired leg or arm muscle strength or range of motion
· Low physical function
· Postural hypotension
Table 6: Risk Factors for Falling

The follow up visit include evaluating Mdm’s Ow response to the acute pain management and
starting the long-term management plan. If the pain is persistent for more than 1-month despite
treatment, referral to the orthopedic should be considered.

Knee pain is a very common presentation in the polyclinic setting. It is also a very common
problem an APN will need to problem solve even when managing patients with chronic diseases.
The approach algorithm will be a good guide for the practicing APN to be full aware of what
kind of knee pain should seek doctor’s consultation.

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Bandolier (2007). Non-pharmacological interventions for osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.
Retrieved from
on 3 April 07.

Bandolier 47 (2007). Glucosamine and chondroitin for knee OA. Retrieved from http://www. on 3 April 07.

Bandolier 110 (2007). Topical NSAIDs for OA: update. Retrieved from http://www.jr2.ox. on 3 April 2007.

Bui-Mansfield, L.T. and Youngberg, R.A. (2007). Baker cyst. Retrieved from http://www. on 23 March 2007.

Health Technology Assessment, (2006). A comparison of the cost-effectiveness of 5 strategies for
the prevention of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug-induced gastrointestinal toxicity: a
systematic review with economic modeling. Retrieved from
uk/pdfexecs/summ1038.pdf on 3 April 07.

Jackson, J.L/, O’Malley, P.G. and Kroenke, K. (2003). Evaluation of acute knee pain in primary
care. Annals of Internal Medicine, 139 (7), pp. 575-588

Mason, L., Moore, R.A., Edwards, J.E., Derry, S. and McQuary, H.J. (2004). Topical NSAIDs
for chronic musculoskeletal pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal
Disorders, 5: 28 retrieved from
28.pdfon 3 April 2007.

University of Michigan Health System (2005). Guidelines for Clinical Care -- Knee pain or
swelling: acute or chronic. Retrieved from on
16 March 2007.

University of Michigan Health System (2005). Guidelines for Clinical Care – Osteoporosis:
Prevention and Treatment. Retrieved from
edu/ipdf/guideliens/osteoporosis.pdf on 4 April 2007.

Calmbach, W.L. and Hutchens, M. (2003). Evaluation of patients presenting with knee pain: part
1 – history, physical examination, radiographs and laboratory tests. American Family Physician,
68(5): 907-912.

Calmbach, W.L. and Hutchens, M. (2003). Evaluation of patients presenting with knee pain: part
2 – Differential diagnosis. American Family Physician, 68(5): 917-922.

Dixit, S., Difiori, J.P., Burton, M. and Mines, B. (2007). Management of patellofemoral pain
syndrome. American Family Physician, 75(2): 194-202.

Feng, P.H. (2003). Therapeutic agents in joint pains. The Singapore Family Physician 29(3): 17-

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Lau, T.C. (2002). Osteoporosis. The Singapore Family Physician, 28(2): 9-16.

Leong, K.H. (2003). Osteoporosis. The Singapore Family Physician. 29(3): 12-13.

Satkunananthan, K. (2003). Osteoarthritis of knee and hip. The Singapore Family Physician,
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Physical Examination Tests for the Knee Joint
Anterior drawer test Place patient supine, flex hip to 45 degrees and the knee to 90 degree.
Sit on the dorsum of the foot, wrap your hands around the hamstrings
(ensuring that these muscles are relaxed), then pull and push the
proximal part of the leg, testing the movement of the tibia on the femur.

Do these maneuvers in 3 positions of tibial rotation: neutral, 30 degrees
externally, and 30 degrees internally rotated.

A normal test result is no more than 6 to 8 mm of laxity.

Lachman test Place patient supine on examining table, leg at the examiner’s side,
slightly externally rotated and flexed (20 to 30 degrees). Stabilize the
femur with 1 hand and apply pressure to the back of the knee with the
other hand with the thumb of the hand exerting pressure placed on the
joint line.

A positive test result is movement of the knee with a soft or mushy
end point.

Pivot test Fully extend the knee, rotate the foot internally. Apply a valgus stress
while progressively flexing the knee, watching and feeling for
translation of the tibia on the femur.

McMuray test Flex the hip and knee maximally. Apply a valgus (abduction) force to
the knee while externally rotating the foot and passively extending
the knee. An audible or palpable snap during extension suggests a
tear if the medical meniscus.

For the lateral meniscus, apply a varus (adduction) stress during
internal rotation of the foot and passive extension of the knee.

Joint line tenderness Palpate medially or laterally along the knee until one comes to the
joint line between the femur and tibial condyles.

The presence of pain on palpation is a positive finding.
Annals of Internal Medicine, 2003, 139 (7): 575-588.

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