Ottawa Knee Rule
The Ottawa Knee Rules should be applied to all patients aged 2 and older with knee pain/tenderness in the setting of trauma.
The Ottawa Knee Rules were derived to aid in the efficient use of radiography in acute knee injuries.
- Rules have been prospectively validated on multiple occasions in different populations and in both children and adults.
- Numerous studies found sensitivities for the Ottawa Knee Rules of 98-100% for clinically significant knee fractures. One study did find a sensitivity of just 86%.
- Specificities for the Ottawa Knee Rules typically range from 19%-50%, though the rule is not designed/intended for specific diagnosis.
- When used appropriately, the amount of knee x-rays obtained can be reduced by around 20-30%.
- The Ottawa Knee Rules are useful in ruling out fracture (high sensitivity) when negative, but poor for ruling in fractures (many false positives).
Tips from the creators at University of Ottawa:
- Tenderness of patella is significant only if an isolated finding.
- Use only for injuries < 7 days.
- “Bearing weight” counts even if the patient limps.
Precautions from the creators at University of Ottawa:
- Do not use on patients < 18 years of age.
- Clinical Judgement should prevail if examination is unreliable:
- Uncooperative patient
- Distracting painful injuries
- Diminished sensation in legs
- Always provide written instructions.
- Encourage follow-up in 5-7 days if pain and ability to walk is not better.
- Patients without criteria for imaging by the Ottawa Knee Rules are highly unlikely to have a clinically significant fracture and do not need plain radiographs.
- Application of the Ottawa Knee Rules can cut down on the number of unnecessary radiographs by 20-30%, which has proven to be cost effective for patients without reducing quality of care. (Nichol 1999)