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Ann Rheum Dis. 2011 Aug;70(8):1447-52. doi: 10.1136/ard.2010.148668. Epub 2011 May 12.

Effect of assistive technology in hand osteoarthritis: a randomised controlled trial.

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National Resource Center for Rehabilitation in Rheumatology, Department of Rheumatology, Diakonhjemmet Hospital, Oslo, Norway.



Hand osteoarthritis (HOA) is a common joint disorder with an expected rise in prevalence due to the increasing ageing population, but with few available effective treatment options. The main aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of assistive technology (AT) in patients with HOA.


In this observer-blinded, randomised controlled trial, 35 patients with HOA (AT group) received provision of information and AT (assistive devices and splints), while 35 patients received information only (control group). Primary outcomes were activity performance and satisfaction with performance, measured by the Canadian occupational performance measure (COPM) on a 1-10 scale. Secondary outcomes included measures of disease activity, pain, fatigue and function. Outcome assessments were made at 3 months follow-up.


Of 70 participants randomised, 66 participants completed all assessments. Provision of AT was associated with improvement in the COPM performance score (mean difference (95% CI) in change scores 1.8 (1.1 to 2.6) and in the satisfaction score (1.7 (0.7 to 2.6)), indicating a moderate to large treatment effect (effect sizes 0.9). There was a significant improvement in the Australian/Canadian hand index function score in the AT group after 3 months (-0.4, p<0.001), and an adjusted mean difference between groups of -0.3 (p=0.06, effect size -0.5). No other differences were found in the secondary outcomes. Self-reported AT usage rate in the AT group was 92%, and participants rated their comfort with AT usage as high.


Use of AT is well tolerated and significantly improves activity performance and satisfaction with performance in patients with HOA. The trial is registered in the ISRCTN register (ISRCTN40357804).

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