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OBJECTIVES: To investigate the clinical effectiveness, efficacy and cost effectiveness of splints (orthoses) in people with symptomatic basal thumb joint OA (BTOA). METHODS: A pragmatic, multicentre parallel group randomized controlled trial at 17 National Health Service (NHS) hospital departments recruited adults with symptomatic BTOA and at least moderate hand pain and dysfunction. We randomized participants (1:1:1) using a computer-based minimization system to one of three treatment groups: a therapist supported self-management programme (SSM), a therapist supported self-management programme plus a verum thumb splint (SSM+S), or a therapist supported self-management programme plus a placebo thumb splint (SSM+PS). Participants were blinded to group allocation, received 90 min therapy over 8 weeks and were followed up for 12 weeks from baseline. Australian/Canadian (AUSCAN) hand pain at 8 weeks was the primary outcome, using intention to treat analysis. We calculated costs of treatment. RESULTS: We randomized 349 participants to SSM (n = 116), SSM+S (n = 116) or SSM+PS (n = 117) and 292 (84%) provided AUSCAN Osteoarthritis Hand Index hand pain scores at the primary end point (8 weeks). All groups improved, with no mean treatment difference between groups: SSM+S vs SSM -0.5 (95% CI: -1.4, 0.4), P = 0.255; SSM+PS vs SSM -0.1 (95% CI: -1.0, 0.8), P = 0.829; and SSM+S vs SSM+PS -0.4 (95% CI: -1.4, 0.5), P = 0.378. The average 12-week costs were: SSM £586; SSM+S £738; and SSM+PS £685. CONCLUSION: There was no additional benefit of adding a thumb splint to a high-quality evidence-based, supported self-management programme for thumb OA delivered by therapists. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN 54744256 (

Original publication




Journal article


Rheumatology (oxford)

Publication Date





2862 - 2877


clinical trial, orthosis, symptomatic basal thumb joint osteoarthritis, thumb splint, Aged, Carpometacarpal Joints, Combined Modality Therapy, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Osteoarthritis, Physical Therapy Modalities, Single-Blind Method, Splints, Thumb, Treatment Outcome