WUO,NEJM logoHere’s some bad news for creaky baby boomers. A recent study reveals that the therapy for arthritic knees could often be as effective as surgery. This subsequently means that arthroscopic knee surgery may actually be no good.

The Canadian led study suggests that routinely practiced knee surgery is ineffective at reducing joint pain or improving joint function in people with osteoarthritis. Affecting one in every 10 Canadians and 27 million Americans, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.

Dr. Robert Litchfield, mentioned, “We compared these patients through two years and really didn’t find any difference in the group that had the addition of the surgery. I really think it tells us that we need to focus our attention on other types of treatment.”

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Western Ontario. As part of the study, the researchers analysed 178 men and women suffering from moderate to severe arthritis in their knees. With an average age of 60 years, these patients were subjected to normal medical treatment in the form of physical therapy along with medications to ease the pain. In addition to this arthroscopic surgery was performed on nearly 86-90 of the patients.

Arthroscopic surgery involves inserting instruments through tiny incisions to clean out any loose debris and smooth out the joint.

These volunteers were closely followed for a period of two years. After the follow-up period, the researchers found that there was no difference in regards to those who had the surgery and those who didn’t. They discovered that the surgery was in fact of no use at all as the participants showed no significant improvement in joint functions or relief in pain.

The researchers however indicate that the surgery did help a minority of patients who had milder symptoms, large tears or other damage to the meniscus — cartilage pads that act like shock absorbers between upper and lower leg bones.

Well this isn’t really the first time the surgery is under scrutiny. Apparently many people with osteoarthritis benefit as much from physiotherapy and mild pain relievers as they would from arthroscopic surgery, which is often unnecessary.

The findings are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.