I recently read about a Finish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that one of the most common types of knee surgery (a meniscectomy) is worthless. The meniscus (see photo), by the way, is the cartilage of the knee located on either side of what is popularly known as the “knee cap” (patella). It acts as a shock absorber.
The removal of (either part of or the entire) meniscus, known as a “meniscectomy”, is a simple operation: Small incisions are made for inserting the arthroscope (a small surgical camera) inside the knee. A tool called a “shaver”, guided by the surgeon, then trims torn meniscus and smooths the edges.
In the study, 146 patients with torn menisci were divided into two groups, one to receive real meniscectomies, and the other to receive a “fake surgery”, in which blade-less shavers were rubbed against the outside of the knee cap to simulate the sensation of having an actual meniscectomy.
The study showed that the same percentage of patients in each group claimed to have benefited from the “surgery”.
I personally have undergone two meniscectomies (right knee lateral and medial) about 5 years apart. For me, both meniscectomies worked like magic: before the operation, my torn meniscus would start causing a sharp, stabbing pain after about a mile of running. After the surgery, in only about a month, I was out running my usual 5 to 7 miles painfree.
Many of my clients, Central New York personal injury accident victims, also end up with meniscectomies when a knee is twisted or knocked about in an accident. They have also usually gotten significant relief from the surgery. But after this Finnish study, I have to worry whether eventually health insurers and others will stop paying for meniscectomies. After all, the Finish study is basically saying the surgery is worthless.
So who’s right, the Finish study or my clients and me?
As I read the article again, I noticed that all the participants in the study had “wear-induced meniscus tears”, not traumatically induced tears from sports-related injuries or personal injury accidents.
My meniscus was torn by running, a kind of trauma to the knee. My clients’ were torn by accident trauma, usually falling on pavement or hitting the dashboard in a car accident. Perhaps therein lies the difference; trauma induced meniscus tears somehow are relieved through surgery, whereas old-age wear-and-tear ones are not.
So here’s my note to the Finnish study folks: Redo the experiment with trauma-induced meniscus tears, will ya?
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Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
mbk-law.com Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels Bersani Kalabanka