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Rethinking the Benefits of Knee Surgery

Health

Elderly woman suffering from pain in knee. Tendon problems and Joint inflammation on dark background. | Image by PopTika, Shutterstock

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Just about everyone knows someone who has undergone arthroscopic knee surgery, one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S., according to Harvard Medical School. The “minimally invasive” procedure is commonly prescribed despite some considerable evidence showing that the benefits may be too minimal.

Dr. Carrie Jose, writing for Seacoast Media Group, explained that the operation is commonly undertaken to clear out knee joints suffering from degenerative arthritis or to remove portions of a torn meniscus.

Unfortunately, as this study suggests, many people who undergo arthroscopic knee surgery end up experiencing an acceleration of arthritis, often prompting a complete knee replacement that otherwise would not have been required without the initial intervention.

To be clear, experts do not believe the procedure is useless for everyone, especially if the knee is locked or causes too much pain to walk.

However, there is mounting evidence that the risks of complications may outweigh the benefits for many individuals, according to Dr. Jose.

Despite the procedure being deemed minimally invasive, she wrote, complications arise in some patients. A person may end up worse off than they were before, contending not only with the original injury, but also the long recovery needed from the surgery itself.

Even more striking, the majority of people experiencing knee pain, 70%, can fully recover without surgical intervention, she claimed. Even degenerative arthritis can heal naturally using physical therapy and, importantly, without surgery.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that placebo arthroscopic knee surgery was as effective as the actual procedure. The fact that these findings were later repeated in other studies, according to Dr. Jose, favors a more conservative treatment of knee pain.

According to her, knee pain does not always emanate from the knee itself. Ankle, hip, or back problems can radiate pain to the knee — the back alone is the cause of 40% of all knee pain.

Having seen many unsuccessful knee surgeries over her two-decade tenure in medicine, Dr. Jose believes that the reason why this surgery remains so popular is that it is all some surgeons know.  They fail to keep abreast of evolving research, not realizing that an alternative form of physical therapy would likely successfully treat the knee. Other times patients, wary from having exhausted all other courses of treatment, insist on having the surgery.

Ultimately, it is critical that patients verify whether their knee problems actually stem from issues in the knee itself, Dr. Jose argued. Since seven out of 10 instances of knee pain do not require surgery, individuals should fully exhaust all conservative treatment options before proceeding and producing unnecessary trauma on the body.       

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Veronica
Veronica
1 month ago

I believe that to be so true, as I had laparoscopic knee surgery done on my left knee. I now have arthritis in that knee and slight bending to my leg because of it. This was over 10 hrs ago.

SCR
SCR
Reply to  Veronica
1 month ago

Laparoscopic surgery is placing the scope in the abdomen.
Arthroscopic surgery is placing a scope in a joint, such as the knee.
Just an FYI.