According to results published recently in The BMJ, researchers reportedly say in a news release that the benefits of arthroscopic surgery for middle-aged or older patients with persistent knee pain are “inconsequential.”

Researchers say also in the release from The BMJ that the surgical procedure as a treatment for the middle-aged or older person with a painful arthritic knee or torn meniscus (the shock-absorbing cartilage between the knee bones) may be potentially harmful.

The release explains that researchers based in Denmark and Sweden reviewed the results of 18 studies on the benefits and harms of arthroscopic surgery compared with a variety of control treatments (ranging from placebo surgery to exercise) for middle-aged and older people with persistent knee pain.

Per their review, they found that nine randomized trials involving 1,270 patients reported benefits from receiving the surgery. The average patient age ranged from 48 to 63 years, and follow-up time varied between 3 and 24 months.

Overall among these nine studies, the release continues, surgery was associated with a small but significant effect on pain at 3 and six months (but no longer), compared to control treatments. No significant benefit on physical function was found.

After reviewing a further nine studies reporting on the procedure’s harms, the research team found that, although rare, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was the most frequently reported adverse event, followed by infection, pulmonary embolism (a blockage of the main artery of the lung), and death, per the release.

“Interventions that include arthroscopy are associated with a small benefit and with harms,” say the authors, per the release, and the benefit is “markedly smaller than that seen from exercise therapy.”

These findings “do not support the practice of arthroscopic surgery as treatment for middle aged or older patients with knee pain with or without signs of osteoarthritis,” they conclude in the release.

The article published in The BMJ is part of its “Too Much Medicine” campaign—to highlight the threat to human health and the waste of resources caused by unnecessary care, the release notes.

[Source(s): BMJ, EurekAlert]