A recent systematic review concluded that arthroscopic surgery for degenerative knee disease (including arthritis and meniscal tears) did not result in lasting pain relief or improved function. As a result, panelists strongly recommend against arthroscopy for patients with degenerative knee disease in most cases.
The review (Arthroscopic surgery for degenerative knee arthritis and meniscal tears: a clinical practice guideline- May 2017) was published in BMJ.
According to the review, about 25% of people older than 50 years of age experience pain from degenerative knee disease (the percentage rises with age), and costs for arthroscopies for this condition are in excess of $3 billion per year in the United States. Furthermore, only 15% of arthroscopy patients reported a small or very small improvement in pain or function at 3 months post surgery, and those benefits were not sustained at 1 year post surgery.
In place of arthroscopy, panelists recommend effective alternatives including an individualized regimen combining rest, weight loss as needed, a variety of treatments provided by a physical therapist, exercise, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
In an interview with the New York Times, Dr Reed A.C. Siemieniuk, a methodologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and chairman of the panel, said, "Arthroscopic surgery has a role, but not for arthritis and meniscal tears." The procedure, he elaborated, "became popular before there were studies to show that it works, and we now have high-quality evidence showing that it doesn't work."