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Originally published February 16 2009

Arthroscopic Knee Surgery Useless for Arthritis Pain

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A common surgical treatment for arthritis of the knee is medically useless, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This is not the first time that the procedure has come under fire. A 2002 study found that arthroscopy, in which joints are cleaned out and smoothed with tiny surgical instruments, provided no benefit for arthritis of the knee when compared with other treatments. But that study's methodology was criticized for its use of only men who were significantly older than the average arthritic arthroscopy patient, and doctors continued to prescribe the procedure.

"Not much really changed," said Brian Feagan, lead researcher of the current study. "I don't think they were willing to respond to a single study."

The new study, Feagan said, should settle the debate and hopefully lead doctors to stop prescribing arthroscopy.

"I think we have definitive evidence that that procedure is ineffective," Feagan said. "If it isn't effective, patients should not be undergoing it."

Researchers conducted the study on 178 female and male arthritis patients, all of whom underwent physical therapy, joint lubricating injections and treatment with painkillers and glucosamine supplements. In addition, 86 participants also received arthroscopy. The average participant age was 60.

The researchers tested the patients' progress every six months for two years, and found that all participants showed significant improvement in measures of pain, stiffness and mobility. There was no significant difference, however, between those who had undergone arthroscopy and those who had not.

Arthroscopy is one of the most common surgeries in the United States, with roughly a third of the 95,000 surgeries performed for those with arthritis of the knee.

"You have this baby boomer population driving a lot of this." said Nicholas DiNubile of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "They really think that they can turn the clocks back and surgery can fix everything. But if arthritis is the primary problem and it's moderate to severe, this shows those patients aren't going to do very well."

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