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The Pain & Therapy Bibliography, Record ID 2041 {show all records}

A controlled trial of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee


added Jul 28, 06, updated Dec 11, 13
most detailed summaries by Paul Ingraham

summary

In this landmark and fascinating study, people with osteoarthritis improved equally well regardless of whether they received a real surgical procedure or a sham, which is a particularly striking example of the placebo effect and implies that belief can have an effect even on a “mechanical” knee problem. From the abstract: “In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic debridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure.” In 2008, these findings were fully supported by a Cochrane Collaboration review (Laupattarakasem) which concluded that “there is ‘gold’ level evidence that arthoscopic debridement has no benefit,” and by New England Journal of Medicine (Kirkley) which reported that “surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee provides no additional benefit to optimized physical and medical therapy.”

item type
article in a journal
authors
JB Moseley, K O’Malley, NJ Petersen et al.
full text
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/347/2/81
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journal
New England Journal of Medicine
year
2002
month
Jul 11
volume
347
number
2
pages
81–8

abstract

BACKGROUND: Many patients report symptomatic relief after undergoing arthroscopy of the knee for osteoarthritis, but it is unclear how the procedure achieves this result. We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of arthroscopy for osteoarthritis of the knee.

METHODS: A total of 180 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly assigned to receive arthroscopic debridement, arthroscopic lavage, or placebo surgery. Patients in the placebo group received skin incisions and underwent a simulated debridement without insertion of the arthroscope. Patients and assessors of outcome were blinded to the treatment-group assignment. Outcomes were assessed at multiple points over a 24-month period with the use of five self-reported scores--three on scales for pain and two on scales for function--and one objective test of walking and stair climbing. A total of 165 patients completed the trial.

RESULTS: At no point did either of the intervention groups report less pain or better function than the placebo group. For example, mean (+/-SD) scores on the Knee-Specific Pain Scale (range, 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more severe pain) were similar in the placebo, lavage, and debridement groups: 48.9+/-21.9, 54.8+/-19.8, and 51.7+/-22.4, respectively, at one year (P=0.14 for the comparison between placebo and lavage; P=0.51 for the comparison between placebo and debridement) and 51.6+/-23.7, 53.7+/-23.7, and 51.4+/-23.2, respectively, at two years (P=0.64 and P=0.96, respectively). Furthermore, the 95 percent confidence intervals for the differences between the placebo group and the intervention groups exclude any clinically meaningful difference.

CONCLUSIONS: In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic debridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure.

related content

  1. “A Randomized Trial of Arthroscopic Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee,” an article in New England Journal of Medicine, 2008.
  2. “Arthroscopic debridement for knee osteoarthritis,” an article in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008.

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