Arthroscopic knee surgery – is it effective for Osteoarthritis?

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Arthroscopic knee surgery – is it effective for Osteoarthritis?

According to researchers the widely used arthroscopy knee surgery may not actually be effective for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a common joint disease occurring as a result of wear and tear of joints due to ageing. The patient complains of pain and morning stiffness. The pain is usually treated with NSAIDs (Non Steroid Anti-Inflammatory drugs). But when pain is not relieved Arthroscopic knee surgery is used as one of the treatment options.

Arthroscopic knee surgery is a minor surgical procedure done through tiny incisions on the knee. The arthroscope helps to visualize the inside of the knee and the patient with osteoarthritis can be treated with any one of the two surgical procedures: Arthroscopic debridement (in which torn out or loose cartilage is removed and cut away with the aid of a pencil-thin viewing tube called an arthroscope) and Arthroscopic Lavage (loose cartilage is flushed out of the joint).

But studies have shown that Arthroscopic surgery is no better than placebo. A study was conducted on 180 people divided into 3 groups: one group underwent Arthroscopic debridement, the second group underwent Arthroscopic Lavage and the third group unknowingly underwent a placebo surgery (i.e. just small incisions were made on the knee but the actual procedure was not done). On reviewing the participants after a period of one year and two years it was observed that all three groups showed similar improvement in pain and function. Even when the patients did not receive any surgery, their symptoms improved (this is called a placebo effect). Hence, researchers feel that Arthroscopic knee surgery has more of a placebo effect on most of the osteoarthritis patients.

These results suggest that Arthroscopic Lavage and Debridement are ineffective for most patients with knee osteoarthritis.

However, according to orthopedic surgeons the therapy may be 95 % successful in suitable cases. These include cartilage (meniscal) or knee cap (patellar) problems, torn ligaments or if the patient is having sudden locking of the knee during walking or cannot fully straighten or bend the knee. Patients with moderately severe osteoarthritis may require partial or total knee replacement.

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