Arthroscopy May Not Help Knee Arthritis
Study Shows Popular Knee Surgery May Not Reduce Symptoms of Osteoarthritis
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 10, 2008 -- Arthroscopic knee surgery for people suffering from
osteoarthritis doesn't reduce joint symptoms or improve its function compared
with optimal nonsurgical treatment.
That's according to a new study published in The New England Journal of
Researchers at the University of Western Ontario and the Lawson Health
Research Institute in Canada examined the effectiveness of arthroscopic
surgery, a widely accepted method for treating osteoarthritis of the knee. It
involves small incisions to insert a thin, flexible fiber-optic scope and
other small instruments into the knee joint to remove pieces of cartilage and
smooth the joint surfaces. Arthroscopy is also used to repair other knee
The research team was composed of orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatologists, and
physiotherapists. They treated 178 London-area patients with moderate to severe
osteoarthritis of the knee from 1999 to 2007. The participants were on average
60 years old.
All of the patients were provided with physical therapy as well as
medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen; 86 of the patients also
received arthroscopic surgery. They were then tracked for two years to assess
the severity of their osteoarthritis.
Arthroscopy vs. Nonsurgical Treatment
The researchers found that both groups of patients experienced similar
improvements in joint pain, stiffness, and function.
At the end of two years, the researchers concluded that compared with
nonsurgical treatment, arthroscopic surgery of the knee did not improve joint
symptoms or function for people suffering from osteoarthritis of the knee.
"This study provides definitive evidence that arthroscopic surgery
provides no additional therapeutic value when added to physical therapy and
medication for patients with moderate osteoarthritis of the knee," says
study researcher Brian Feagan, MD, clinical trials director at the Robarts
Research Institute at the University of Western Ontario and a professor of
medicine, and epidemiology and biostatistics at the university's Schulich
School of Medicine & Dentistry.
However, Bob Litchfield, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and one of the study's
researchers, explained that the study focused on arthritis-related knee
problems, emphasizing that arthroscopic knee surgery is still beneficial in
many other conditions that affect the knee, such as meniscal and ligament