A report in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms a 2002 study that arthroscopic knee surgery is not effective in reducing the joint pain or stiffness associated with arthritis. Arthritis is caused when cartilage that protects bones at the joints (knee, hips, shoulders, hips) wears down abnormally, causing pain and stiffness due to the bones rubbing together. Arthritis affects approximately 27 million Americans, usually beginning after age 40.
Arthroscopic knee surgery is a technique in which the surgeon is aided by images from a camera in the joint. It is most commonly used in repairing injuries such as ligament and cartilage tears. in 2006, there were 985,000 arthroscopic knee surgeries in the United States, according to figures for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those surgeries, approximately 200,000 to 300,000 were performed to treat arthritis.
The study in question examined 178 adults with moderate to severe arthritis who underwent arthroscopic surgery, during which bone and cartilage are removed with tiny incisions. The main conclusion, as stated by Dr. David McAllister, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at UCLA, is that: "...for this level of arthritis, surgery is not any better than nonsurgical treatment...[including physical therapy]."