A recent study from researchers in Denmark and Norway has found that for middle-aged adults, diagnosed with a degenerative meniscal tear (common and caused by wear and tear of the knee joint), physical therapy might work as well as surgery and should be tried first. It seems that supervised exercise, say with a physical therapist, is just as effective as surgery and is less risky to the patient. It’s also far less expensive. The study was published in The BMJ.
From the article:
“An estimated two million people have arthroscopic knee surgery (also known as minimally-invasive or “keyhole” surgery) each year, at a cost of several billion dollars. But increasingly, studies have shown that these procedures have little benefit to most patients.
So researchers in Denmark and Norway organized a clinical trial to compare treatment with surgery versus treatment with physical therapy. Out of 140 adults with degenerative meniscal tears, half received arthroscopic surgery and were given exercises to perform at home; the other half were prescribed 12 weeks of supervised exercise sessions, two to three times a week.”
Researchers found that three months later the second group scored higher on tests of thigh muscle strength than the surgery group. But, after two years, improvement in both groups was equal. (Eventually, 13 patients in the physical therapy group eventually decided to have surgery but it didn’t provide them any additional benefits.)
Co-author Nina Jullum Kise, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Martina Hansens Hospital in Norway, points out that her study was done “…on adults with degenerative meniscal tears—not traumatic meniscal tears, which often occur in younger people and are caused by sports injuries or accidents. Traumatic tears can restrict the knee’s range of motion, and surgical repair should always be considered in these cases.”
Surgery might seem like a quick fix (to who?) but not only is it expensive but the recovery time can be lengthy. In cases like this, especially, it’s important to take the time to heal because once the meniscus is irrevocable damaged, osteoarthritis will eventually set in.