Originally published November 10 2008
Arthroscopic Knee Surgery Fails to Bring Desired Benefits
by Reuben Chow
(NaturalNews) When we are told by our medical doctors that we need surgery, many of us would assume that the procedure would fix the health problem which we have - that is only natural. And that is all the more so when a particular surgical procedure is a very common one. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. And recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has revealed that arthroscopic knee surgery, which is the most commonly performed orthopedic surgery in the United States, may not bring any desired benefits.
Arthritis in the knees
The knee joint is said to be one of the most complex joints in the human body. Its ligaments and cartilage get worn out by normal physical activities as the years go by, and are also easily injured and torn. In addition, the knee is especially prone to osteoarthritis.
Arthritis often comes with stiffness, swelling and pain, and people with arthritis of the knee cope with the condition using various ways. They move away from vigorous activities toward gentler ones, undergo physical therapy, use knee braces, apply heat or cold, and sometimes take anti-inflammatory drugs.
Then there is arthroscopic surgery. For this procedure, small incisions are made and, through them, instruments and a video camera are placed into the joint. This method allows the surgeon to have a direct view of the internal structures of the joint, including the cartilage and ligaments. Cartilage which is torn or eroded can be repaired, while pieces of degenerated cartilage which are loose within the joint can be drained away.
Studies indicating that arthroscopic knee surgery may not have benefits
As mentioned earlier, arthroscopic surgery is the most common orthopedic operation in the US today. For it to be so frequently carried out, it must surely bring considerable relief to its subjects. Apparently not, according to new studies highlighted in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Firstly, a clinical study carried out in Ontario, Canada, compared the relief of symptoms of 84 persons who received both arthroscopic surgery and maximal medical treatment against another 86 persons who only received the latter, two years after treatment – both groups of patients suffered from moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis of the knee.
Using osteoarthritis and physical disability scoring tools which had been previously validated, the study team found that the performance of arthroscopic surgery did not result in any measurable improvement in the patients' symptoms of osteoarthritis nor arthritis-related physical disability.
This clinical study affirms that of an earlier clinical research trial, which showed no visible benefit of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis in the knee for patients who were also undergoing other forms of medical treatment and physical therapy.
And such data from the two trials debunks previous findings which had seemed to indicate that the surgery in question was useful, although it must be pointed out that those conclusions had been obtained using retrospective data.
Why arthroscopic knee surgery may be futile
And we learn more about a possible reason why arthroscopic knee surgery may not be as beneficial as we think for knee osteoarthritis from a second study discussed in the said journal.
This second study carried out at Boston University looked at right knee magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 991 volunteers randomly chosen in Framingham, Massachusetts. These were compared with the participants' answers to a questionnaire regarding osteoarthritis symptoms which they were asked to fill. All the study subjects were aged between 50 and 90 years.
In gist, this study's findings gave a strong indication that most meniscal tears and erosions, on their own, are not likely to cause significant knee symptoms in most people. And since these issues are those which are most commonly fixed during arthroscopic knee surgery, this could be the reason why little benefit to patients has been noted from such surgical procedures.
Prevention is better than cure
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 5 adults, or nearly 50 million people, in the United States have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. That is a lot of people.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is often associated with aging. On top of that, lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle as well as obesity are also additional risk factors for getting the disease.
As they say, prevention is better than cure. Thus, if you fall into the higher risk groups, it may be time for you to take note and make some lifestyle changes. Arthritis, after all, can be a painful and debilitating condition.
Whether or not to have arthroscopic knee surgery – food for thought
And if you already have the condition in your knees, and are slated for arthroscopic surgery, the findings of the said studies will provide you with some food for thought.
All surgery comes with very tangible risks to the patient. Not to mention, surgery is usually very expensive, too. If the two trials are indeed correct, and there is no tangible benefit of the procedure to the patient, then the cost-benefit pendulum of arthroscopic knee surgery would have swung too much toward the negative. Any decision to undergo this surgery would thus warrant a rethink.
Arthroscopic Knee Surgery – No Better Than Placebo? (http://mensnewsdaily.com/2008/09/14/arthrosc...)
About the authorReuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth. His website, All 4 Natural Health, offers a basic guide on natural health information. It details simple, effective and natural ways, such as the use of nutrition, various herbs, herb remedies, supplements and other natural remedies, to deal with various health conditions as well as to attain good health. His other websites also cover topics such as depression help, omega 3 fatty acids, as well as cancer research and information.
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