Study touts options to knee surgery

USA Today—September 11, 2008

Hundreds of thousands of people go under the knife each year for arthroscopic knee surgery to treat osteoarthritis, but they may do as well without surgery, suggests a study in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

Research by physicians at the Robarts Clinical Trials at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and colleagues suggest arthritic knees benefit equally from less invasive treatments, including medication and physical therapy.

Of 178 patients with moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee, 86 received only physical and medical therapy, while the rest had arthroscopic surgery as well, the study showed. Two years after surgery, both groups had improved equally.

Dr. Robert Marx, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, who wrote an accompanying editorial, says arthroscopy is not effective for arthritis alone but "can be beneficial for patients who also have a torn meniscus or floating pieces of cartilage."

Both experts agree knee replacement surgery is an option for those with serious arthritis.

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