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Study: No Need For Common Knee Surgery

(Dr. Brian McDonough) Dr. Brian McDonough
Dr. Brian McDonough has been medical editor at KYW Newsradio for more...
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By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - It is the most commonly performed orthopedic surgery procedure in the United States and it accounts for four billion dollars in costs to the healthcare system.

The procedure is a minimally invasive surgery to repair a torn cartilage in the knee and it is a procedure performed 700,000 times in the US each year.

According to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine, it may not be necessary in many of the patients who have it done.

Researchers in Finland either performed arthroscopic surgery or a fake surgery in 146 patients who had a torn cartilage of the knee. They went to great lengths: the sham surgeries were performed under almost identical circumstances – patients were taken to the operating room, given local anesthesia, instruments were inserted into the knee, and blunt instead of sharp instruments were used to contact knee surfaces.

After one year, there was no difference in knee pain after exercise. The researchers are not saying the procedure is not always necessary but they are questioning just how often it needs to be done.