This orthopedic surgery is the world’s most common. But patients rarely benefit, a panel says

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: A surgeon and his theatre team perform key hole surgery to remove a gallbladder at at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital on March 16, 2010 in Birmingham, England. As the UK gears up for one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history it is expected that that the economy, immigration, industry, the NHS and education are likely to form the basis of many of the debates. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The world’s most common orthopedic procedure — knee arthroscopy — is frequently a waste of time and money and should almost never be performed on patients with degenerative knee disease.

That’s the conclusion of an international panel that strongly recommends against arthroscopic surgery in a new guideline published by the BMJ. The panel found that, while performed 2 million times per year worldwide, knee arthroscopy offers minimal benefits to patients with degenerative knee disease, which affects about 25 percent of people older than 50.

The surgery’s persistence may have to do with a combination of financial incentives, patient frustration at more conservative approaches, and delays in incorporating new evidence into current practice, the panel said.

The guideline does not just apply to those with arthritis, a finding that has already been described, but a much broader set of patients who have meniscus tears, sudden onset of pain, and mechanical symptoms, such as clicking or catching of the knee. The panel, which examined studies involving more than 1.8 million patients, found that people who receive surgery do not see meaningful improvements in “long term pain or function” compared to those who rely on exercise, weight loss, medications, and other less invasive approaches.

The panel also concluded that additional research is unlikely to alter its advice. “You could do another trial, but it’s almost certain to show the same thing,” said Dr. Reed Siemieniuk, chair of the panel and a physician at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

So case closed? No more surgery for patients with degenerative knee disease?

By Casey Ross | STAT

Image Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


About Peter Coffaro 820 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the orthopedic industry. Recognized by as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager and Distributor. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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