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STUDY: Arthroscopic procedures for arthritis no better than placebo, study finds
JOURNAL: New England Journal of Medicine
AUTHORS: Dr. Bruce Moseley
ABSTRACT: A type of knee surgery performed on more than 300,000 Americans each year to ease arthritis pain is worthless, government researchers say.
The provocative study compared arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis to a sham procedure and found no difference in the outcome.
COMMENTARY: THE ARTHROSCOPIC operation is done to clear out debris or repair damaged cartilage in osteoarthritis, the painful, steadily worsening, wear and tear on joints that affects 12 percent of senior citizens.
In a type of study only rarely conducted, some patients got a real knee operation, while others underwent sham surgery.
At every point over the next two years, those who had the fake surgery could climb stairs and walk slightly faster on average than those who had gotten real operations.
The study shows that all of the benefit that people receive is from a placebo effect.
Patients have benefited more from a relatively new treatment — injections of a synthetic version of fluid inside the knee that acts as a shock absorber and lubricant.