Does arthroscopic knee surgery work?
Tibial Meniscus Injuries
A recent randomized trial from the Finnish Degenerative Meniscal Lesion Study Group was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and attempted to determine the efficacy of partial meniscectomy without osteoarthritis. Patients were randomized to either arthroscopic partial meniscectomy or sham surgery. The authors concluded that the clinical outcomes after arthroscopic partial meniscectomy were no better than those after the sham surgical procedure. However, there are several important limitations of this trial that make it difficult to generalize to the 700,000 arthroscopic partial meniscectomies performed in the United States each year. In this small sample of 146 patients, patients with traumatic meniscal tears and locking symptoms-those most likely to benefit from a partial meniscectomy-were excluded. In addition, although patients with radiographic arthritis were excluded, most of the patients in the study had degenerative changes at the time of arthroscopy. Therefore it is difficult to determine whether the patients were symptomatic from their chondral degeneration or their degenerative meniscal tear. In our opinion this study does not change the role of surgery in current clinical practice. The primary indication for arthroscopic partial meniscectomy remains symptoms of well-localized joint line pain with acute onset and mechanical symptoms such as catching or locking that have failed comprehensive nonoperative management.