Scientists say common knee surgery is ineffective
A common type of knee surgery to repair the meniscus, which cushions the bones of the knee, is no more effective than fake surgery--at least in the first year--according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers looked at 146 volunteers at five medical centers in Finland, who had knee pain that appeared to be caused by the wear and tear of the meniscus. None of them had had an injury or osteoarthritis. Both of those situations have been proven ineffective for surgery.
By design, patients in the study did not know whether they had real surgery or fake surgery. Once a doctor used an arthroscopic technique to examine the knee, if surgery seemed appropriate, the medical team opened an envelope that revealed if the patient would have real or fake surgery. For the fake surgery, the microshaver that is used to remove pieces of the meniscus did not have a blade. The patients did not know which type of surgery they had.
Results showed that on two scales objectively measuring symptoms, there was little difference in outcomes between real and fake surgery. But patients regarded their surgery as a success, whether they got real or fake surgery. Surveys showed that 89 percent in the surgery group and 83 percent in the fake surgery group reported improvement.
The researchers say the study suggests there is no quick fix for this kind of knee pain. Some doctors, however, disagree with the findings, saying that there are many more factors that go into whether someone should have surgery, and that this study doesn’t explore those.