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Keywords:

  • Experimental pain;
  • Knee;
  • Infrapatellar fat pad;
  • Nociception

Abstract

The infrapatellar fat pad has been implicated as a possible source of anterior knee pain. This study examined the nature, distribution and time-course of experimentally induced pain in the infrapatellar fat pad. Hypertonic saline (5%) was injected into the medial fat pad of 11 healthy individuals with no history of knee pain. Severity of pain was assessed at rest and during activity using an 11 point numerical rating scale (NRS) at regular intervals over 15–30 min following injection. Participants described the size of the pain region from a series of different sized circles while the area and type of pain was established from a body chart and the McGill pain questionnaire. The effect of pain on temperature-pain threshold and sensory thresholds of the anterior knee was assessed. Participants generally reported a deep aching pain that peaked in severity around 3 min and gradually declined over 15 min. Pain levels were not altered by clinical manoeuvres designed to impinge the fat pad. The size of the pain region was related to pain intensity. Pain was most commonly felt in the region of the fat pad medial to the patella, although some individuals reported proximal referred pain as far as the groin region. Thermal and sensory thresholds were not altered at a region close to the injection site during the experimental pain. These results suggest that nociceptive stimulation of the infrapatellar fat pad may cause anterior knee pain that is not necessarily confined locally particularly if pain is severe. This has implications for the investigation of pathological structures in patients presenting clinically with anterior knee pain and provides an experimental model of anterior knee pain. © 2003 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.