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Which treatment is most effective for patients with Achilles tendinopathy? A living systematic review with network meta-analysis of 29 randomised controlled trials [with consumer summary]
van der Vlist AC, Winters M, Weir A, Ardern CL, Welton NJ, Caldwell DM, Verhaar JAN, de Vos RJ
British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020 Jun 10:Epub ahead of print
systematic review

OBJECTIVE: To provide a consistently updated overview of the comparative effectiveness of treatments for Achilles tendinopathy. DESIGN: Living systematic review and network meta-analysis. DATA SOURCES: Multiple databases including grey literature sources were searched up to February 2019. STUDY ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials examining the effectiveness of any treatment in patients with both insertional and/or midportion Achilles tendinopathy. We excluded trials with 10 or fewer participants per treatment arm or trials investigating tendon ruptures. DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS: Reviewers independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias. We used the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation to appraise the certainty of evidence. PRIMARY OUTCOME MEASURE: The validated patient-reported Victorian Institute of Sport Assessment-Achilles questionnaire. RESULTS: 29 trials investigating 42 different treatments were included. 22 trials (76%) were at high risk of bias and 7 (24%) had some concerns. Most trials included patients with midportion tendinopathy (86%). Any treatment class seemed superior to wait-and-see for midportion Achilles tendinopathy at 3 months (very low to low certainty of evidence). At 12 months, exercise therapy, exercise plus injection therapy and exercise plus night splint therapy were all comparable with injection therapy for midportion tendinopathy (very low to low certainty). No network meta-analysis could be performed for insertional Achilles tendinopathy. SUMMARY/CONCLUSION: In our living network meta-analysis no trials were at low risk of bias and there was large uncertainty in the comparative estimates. For midportion Achilles tendinopathy, wait-and-see is not recommended as all active treatments seemed superior at 3-month follow-up. There seems to be no clinically relevant difference in effectiveness between different active treatments at either 3-month or 12-month follow-up. As exercise therapy is easy to prescribe, can be of low cost and has few harms, clinicians could consider starting treatment with a calf-muscle exercise programme. PROSPERO REGISTRATION NUMBER: CRD42018086467.
Reproduced with permission from the BMJ Publishing Group.

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