Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine have concluded that arthroscopic surgery doesn’t improve patient outcome for those suffering from arthritis of the knee. In the first study, 200 patients with moderate to severe knee arthritis and no meniscal tears were placed randomly into surgical and nonsurgical groups. At two years, the complaints of pain, stiffness, and physical function did not differ between the two groups.
These findings comport with those of a 2002 study reported in the NEJM. There, 180 patients were studied using a placebo procedure, an arthroscopic lavage, and arthroscopic lavage with debridement. Again, at two years, there were no significant differences between the groups on scores for pain and physical functioning.
The conclusion is that arthroscopic surgery is ineffective for most patients with knee osteoarthritis.
New England Journal of Medicine, July 11, 2002