Knee Surgery - Arthroscopy Results No Better than Pretend Surgery
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Knee Surgery - Arthroscopy Results No Better than Pretend Surgery

Surgical tools / Utensilios quirúrgicos 

A study of arthroscopic knee surgery found that the surgery was no more successful than pretending to do the surgery.

Arthroscopic surgery for knee arthritis is performed in substantial numbers. Why? The patient's doctors said they needed it. Where did the doctors get that opinion? It is taught in medical school and repeated at medical conferences. Repeating things is not evidence-based medicine (which is key) but vehemence-based medicine. When highly paid people repeat things without even knowing if it is true, that is eminence-based medicine.

Studies are now following up the same patients who had the surgery. Numbers show that often the surgeries are not needed, and people can do as well without surgery, and with intelligent non-surgical rehab.

This is not new. In the 1930's, patients being prepared for the rigors of surgery through exercise, often found that by surgery time, they didn't need it. Other patients without receiving exercise went straight to surgery. They may have had continuing pain and damage after surgery or later in life, but patient tracking was not done. Doctors just reported that the surgery was done, the patient lived, and that was all, and on to the next paying job.

Then studies compared surgery to physical rehab without surgery. Improvement rates were found to be about the same.

Then came an even more interesting study in 2002 of 180 patients that compared knee arthroscopic surgery to cutting the patient but not doing the knee surgery. Sixty patients in the placebo group received skin incisions and underwent a simulated surgery without insertion of the arthroscope. Two other groups had one of two typical knee procedures: Sixty-one patients had arthroscopic lavage group, and 59 to had arthroscopic débridement.

Results showed, "At no point did either of the intervention groups report less pain or better function than the placebo group." Conclusions were, "In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic débridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure."

A Controlled Trial of Arthroscopic Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee.
New England Journal of Medicine.
Volume 347:81-88. July 11, 2002. Number 2. NEJM.

This does not mean that surgery does not "work" but that you do not have to have it or be rushed into it, if it is not right for you. There are other ways, often as quick, and less expensive and painful and without the limitations following. Take your time. Don't let anyone push you into something not right for you. Medical claims that you will get worse if you do not have immediate surgery have not turned out to be factual.


Surgery for Knee Arthritis, Meniscus, Unnecessary
What Works Better Than Knee Surgery?
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Surgery Unnecessary
Hamstring to Quadriceps Ratios Not the Answer in Knee Injury


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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.