Knee Arthroscopy (Meniscectomy)

Knee arthroscopy has in many cases replaced the classic arthrotomy that was performed in the past. Today knee arthroscopy is commonly performed for treating meniscus injury, reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament and for cartilage microfracturing. Arthroscopy can also be performed just for diagnosing and checking of the knee; however, the latter use has been mainly replaced by magnetic resonance imaging. During an average knee arthroscopy, a small fiberoptic camera (the endoscope) is inserted into the joint through a small incision, about 4 mm (1/8 inch) long. A special fluid is used to visualize the joint parts. More incisions might be performed in order to check other parts of the knee. Then other miniature instruments are used and the surgery is performed. Recovery after a knee arthroscopy is significantly faster as compared to arthrotomy. Most patients can return home and walk using crutches the same or the next day after the surgery. Recovery time depends on the reason that surgery was needed and the patient's physical condition. Usually a patient can fully load his leg within a couple of days and after a few weeks the joint function can fully recover. It is not uncommon for athletes who have an above average physical condition to return to normal athletic activities within a few weeks. Arthroscopic surgeries of the knee are done for many reasons, but the usefulness of surgery for treating osteoarthritis is doubtful. A double-blind placebo-controlled study on arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002. In this three-group study, 180 military veterans with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly assigned to receive arthroscopic d├ębridement with lavage, just arthroscopic lavage, or a sham surgery, which made superficial incisions to the skin while pretending to do the surgery. For two years after the surgeries, patients reported their pain levels and were evaluated for joint motion. Neither the patients nor the independent evaluators knew which patients had received which surgery. The study reported, "At no point did either of the intervention groups report less pain or better function than the placebo group." Because there is no confirmed usefulness for these surgeries, many agencies are reconsidering paying for a surgery which seems to create risks with no benefit. A 2008 study confirmed that there was no long-term benefit for chronic pain, above medication and physical therapy.Since one of the main reasons for arthroscopy is to repair or trim a painful and torn or damaged meniscus, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine which shows that about 60% of these tears cause no pain and are found in asymptomatic subjects, may further call the rationale for this procedure into question.

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