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Archive for July 11th, 2010

arthroscopic knee surgery

arthroscopic knee surgery

The Department of Veteran Affairs in conjunction with Baylor University in Houston reports that patients with knee osteoarthritis who underwent a placebo (or fake) surgery were just as likely to report pain relief as those who underwent an actual arthroscopic surgery!

The lead investigator of the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Nelda Wray said, “The fact that the effectiveness of arthroscopic lavage or debridement in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee is no greater than that of placebo surgery makes us question whether the one billion plus dollars spent on these procedures might not be put to better use.”

The study divided 180 patients into three groups.  One group received debridement – where damaged cartilage is cut out.  The second group received lavage, where bad cartilage is washed out of the knee.  And the third group received two small incisions but no actual surgery.

All three groups reported moderate improvements in pain and function!

Dr. Wray went on to say that, ” We have shown that the entire driving force behind this billion dollar industry is the placebo effect.  The health care industry should rethink how to test whether surgical procedures, done purely for the relief of subjective symptoms, are more efficacious than a placebo.”

Nelda P. Wray, M.D A Controlled Trial of Arthroscopic Surgery of the Knee.  New England Journal of Medicine, July 11, 2002. Volume 347:81-88