Common Knee Surgery Does Very Little for Some, Study Suggests

The New York Times—December 25, 2013

A new study in The New England Journal of Medicine conducted in Finland suggests that surgical meniscal repair may not help patients who develop meniscal tears from wear and tear.

Earlier this year, a study at seven American hospitals found that patients with meniscal tears and osteoarthritis did not experience greater improvement with surgery than those receiving physical therapy, although after six months, one-third of the physical therapy group sought surgery.

An author of the American study, Dr. Robert Marx, orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, said his conclusion was that often physical therapy should be tried before surgery. Still, “properly selected patients do benefit from knee arthroscopy,”

Dr. Marx expressed some skepticism about the Finnish study, which involved patients with only meniscal tears, not perceptible arthritis. He wondered if the tears were small or if the pain was caused by the kneecap, adding, “I cannot believe that this would be the same population of patients I would operate on.”

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