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AARP The Magazine

4 Surgeries to Avoid

Reasons to think twice before going under the knife

4. Knee Arthroscopy for Osteoarthritis

With this procedure a surgeon places a tiny camera in the knee, then inserts small instruments through other incisions to repair torn or aging cartilage. Studies show the operation works well when patients have in fact torn their meniscal tissue, but it is no more successful than noninvasive remedies in treating osteoarthritis of the knee. In a 2008 study, 178 patients with osteoarthritis received either physical and medical therapy without surgery, or therapy plus surgery. After two years the two groups had nearly identical outcomes, reporting less pain and stiffness and more mobility.

Alternatives to surgery

If you have knee pain, "start with the least harmful and invasive treatment and work your way up the ladder," says Colin Nelson, a senior research associate at FIMDM. This includes lifestyle changes such as exercise, as well as medication and cortisone injections.

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