Arthroscopic surgery of the knee is a minimally invasive surgery that allows surgeons to obtain an image of the inner joint and soft tissue structure. Surgeons may also perform small procedures during this surgery including meniscal repair, ACL repair, and trimming of cartilage. Complications with this surgery are rare and recovery times depend on overall health, the amount of procedures performed, and patient lifestyle.
Although this seems like an easy, minimally invasive endeavor, why not make this the last option on your list? A recently published systematic review, which remains the highest tier of research, presents a well-rounded perspective on knee arthroscopy. In the study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017, researchers concluded that patients that chose to undergo knee arthroscopy had no differences in long-term pain or function when compared with patients who chose conservative treatment. With the long-term benefits being seemingly minimal and the risk for future knee replacement higher following this surgery, one should consider alternative options prior to jumping into surgery (figuratively, of course). Let’s summarize the pros and cons associated with this surgery:
It can be helpful in reducing pain and improving range of motion. The surgery is not aggressive and has minimal risk factors. Fortunately, we are surrounded by excellent surgeons that will provide informed advice on the best course of action for your ailment/injury according to the recent research and their experience. Over the course of the last 18 years The Cypress Center has worked with dozens of physician groups and are happy to give our recommendations for medical professionals as well as for your course of care.
With quick recovery times, patients may go in and out of PT quickly without actually addressing the underlying movement dysfunction that led to the surgery in the first place. Are there muscle imbalances that led to abnormal stress on the joint? Are you doing activities with poor posture everyday that cause increased pressure on the joint and soft tissue? Likely, the answer is yes. None of us are perfect and we’re naturally asymmetrical beings. Pain and functional limitations can return if these issues are not addressed.
This is not to say that arthroscopic surgery is never the answer. Every case is highly individual and some may find great benefit from this surgery. Surgery can be an absolutely effective choice when warranted. But as a consumer, it is important to stay educated on the most current evidence. Discuss the pros and cons with your healthcare team to ensure the best outcomes. You only get one body in this life, treat it well!
- Brignardello-Petersen R, Guyatt GH, Buchbinder R, et al. Knee arthroscopy versus conservative management in patients with degenerative knee disease: a systematic review. BMJ Open 2017;7:e016114. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016114
- Wilkerson, R. “Knee Arthroscopy.” OrthoInfo. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, September 2016.