Do you really need knee surgery? Experts say probably not

“If they knew all the evidence, almost nobody would choose to have this surgery.”

That’s how Dr. Reed Siemieniuk, a researcher with McMaster University in Toronto, sums up his just-out look at arthroscopic or “keyhole” surgery for degenerative knee diseases — including those very common arthritic knees.

Even the doctor himself calls that a “strong” statement! But this research comes on the heels of past studies that have discovered pretty much the same thing about what is the most frequently done surgical procedure in the world.

So if your knees are popping, creaking and painful — you need to know about “all the evidence” before you set foot in your doctor’s office.

Looking through the keyhole

For a body part that’s as vital to everyday activities — and gets as much use as your knees do — you probably rarely think about them. Until, that is, something goes wrong!

And since so much can go wrong with knees, operating on them has become a literal gold mine for doctors. But if you ask to see the evidence that all these millions of keyhole knee surgeries are really helping (bringing in around $3 billion a year to the healthcare industry), it’s pretty scarce.

Dr. Siemieniuk’s research, which was published as new clinical guidelines for doctors to follow, found that surgery to “fix” degenerative knee problems just isn’t worth the trouble, not to mention the risk, time and money involved.

That includes those with arthritis of the knee as well as a torn meniscus, which is basically the shock absorber between your knee bones.

Now, if you go to see an orthopedic surgeon for sudden pain, swelling and problems moving your knee, the chances are good that he’ll recommend that keyhole surgery. That’s when a tiny incision is made and miniature instruments are used to repair the damage. It sure sounds logical! And no doubt, that tiny incision part is a big selling point.

But having an operation — no matter how small the incision is — to fix the meniscus is possibly one of the biggest scams in medicine. Fourteen years ago we told you that this procedure is actually worse than doing nothing.

Then, three years ago we told you about a study out of Finland where they used the keyhole surgery on several dozen patients with a torn meniscus, and then took another group and just pretended to do the operation.

And guess what? More of the “sham” surgical patients were more satisfied with the results than the ones who had the actual procedure done.

So with all this research, including the latest study, showing that keyhole surgery isn’t necessary, it’s quite surprising how many doctors are still doing it to “repair” a torn meniscus.

As for having keyhole surgery on your arthritic knees, even the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons advises against it!

Of course, you might be told that you need a lot more than just a tiny incision — that you need a full knee replacement. But even that procedure is highly overused.

A few weeks ago I told you about research that found up to a third of knee-replacement patients are still in chronic pain after the operation. And that for those with milder pain, the procedure is not helpful and unnecessary.

As for dealing with pain and stiffness in your knees, Dr. Siemieniuk and other experts say that physical therapy and losing weight, along with “mild painkillers,” will do just as much to help you as surgery.

And I’ll add, instead of those “mild painkillers,” which carry some pretty big risks of their own (as I told you yesterday), why not try acupuncture first?

That age-old practice has been tested and proven to be able to stop pain in its tracks, especially pain from knee arthritis.

“‘Keyhole’ surgery not helpful for knee arthritis, experts say” Dennis Thompson, May 11, 2017, CBS News, cbsnews.com