Knee Surgery

Study says common surgical procedure could be useless

From William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

You might want to think twice before getting that knee surgery. According to a new study, the use of arthroscopy to treat arthritis in the knee may do nothing to improve the condition. In fact, the study of 178 men and women who’d undergone the surgery showed that the patients fared no better than other sufferers who were treated only with physical therapy and medication.


Study author Brian Feagan of the University of Western Ontario says his research shows “definitive evidence” that arthroscopy is ineffective. “If it isn’t effective, patients should not be undergoing it,” he says.


Amen to that. But good luck trying to convince the current healthcare system that a procedure that’s not only common, but uncommonly lucrative, should be pulled off the table based on a relatively small sample group of 178 patients.


The issue here is not only that the surgery is ineffective — it’s that ALL surgeries, no matter how seemingly “minor” come with a risk factor. And this procedure is no different. While complications from arthroscopy are uncommon, they can happen – and one of those complications is the formation of potentially lethal blood clots.


Nicholas DiNubile, a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, says that patient demand makes the banning of the procedure difficult. “You have this baby boomer population driving a lot of this. They really think that they can turn the clocks back and surgery can fix everything,” he said.


Of course, the surgeons aren’t discouraging the practice, either. That’s how they make their money! You should hardly be surprised that doctors these days like to start slicing people open and poking around inside of them as a first rather than last resort. Orthopedic surgeons are especially likely to “pop the hood” of their patients as if they’re just going in to do a tune up.


If you have osteoarthritis of the knee, I’m hoping you’ll take this study to heart (or joint, as the case may be) and look for an alternative before you let them put you under the knife.

This is the second study that I have read about that compared the outcomes of real arthroscopic surgery to a sham procedure where there was not a difference in outcomes. Nick


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