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Background: This study aimed to evaluate whether prompting general practitioners (GPs) to routinely assess and manage anxiety and depression in patients consulting with osteoarthritis (OA) improves pain outcomes. Methods and findings: We conducted a cluster randomised controlled trial involving 45 English general practices. In intervention practices, patients aged ≥45 y consulting with OA received point-of-care anxiety and depression screening by the GP, prompted by an automated electronic template comprising five questions (a two-item Patient Health Questionnaire–2 for depression, a two-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder–2 questionnaire for anxiety, and a question about current pain intensity [0–10 numerical rating scale]). The template signposted GPs to follow National Institute for Health and Care Excellence clinical guidelines for anxiety, depression, and OA and was supported by a brief training package. The template in control practices prompted GPs to ask the pain intensity question only. The primary outcome was patient-reported current pain intensity post-consultation and at 3-, 6-, and 12-mo follow-up. Secondary outcomes included pain-related disability, anxiety, depression, and general health. During the trial period, 7,279 patients aged ≥45 y consulted with a relevant OA-related code, and 4,240 patients were deemed potentially eligible by participating GPs. Templates were completed for 2,042 patients (1,339 [31.6%] in the control arm and 703 [23.1%] in the intervention arm). Of these 2,042 patients, 1,412 returned questionnaires (501 [71.3%] from 20 intervention practices, 911 [68.0%] from 24 control practices). Follow-up rates were similar in both arms, totalling 1,093 (77.4%) at 3 mo, 1,064 (75.4%) at 6 mo, and 1,017 (72.0%) at 12 mo. For the primary endpoint, multilevel modelling yielded significantly higher average pain intensity across follow-up to 12 mo in the intervention group than the control group (adjusted mean difference 0.31; 95% CI 0.04, 0.59). Secondary outcomes were consistent with the primary outcome measure in reflecting better outcomes as a whole for the control group than the intervention group. Anxiety and depression scores did not reduce following the intervention. The main limitations of this study are two potential sources of bias: an imbalance in cluster size (mean practice size 7,397 [intervention] versus 5,850 [control]) and a difference in the proportion of patients for whom the GP deactivated the template (33.6% [intervention] versus 27.8% [control]). Conclusions: In this study, we observed no beneficial effect on pain outcomes of prompting GPs to routinely screen for and manage comorbid anxiety and depression in patients presenting with symptoms due to OA, with those in the intervention group reporting statistically significantly higher average pain scores over the four follow-up time points than those in the control group.

More information Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pmed.1002273

Type

Online

Publisher

PLOS Medicine

Publication Date

11/04/2017