7/11/02 - Worthless Procedure?

Osteoarthritis is painful, and affects thousands of Americans. In fact, more than 300,000 people get arthroscopic knee surgery every year to find relief.  But now, a government study says the surgery is useless, and doesn't work. Some Heartland doctors do several arthroscopic knee surgeries every day. Many arthritis sufferers use surgery as a last option, an option that Phyllis Wood says she's glad she took.

Phyllis says, "When you can't do what you want to do or go where you want to go you got to do something." So, two years ago, Phyllis did something. After several months of pain and trying other options to treat her osteoarthritis, she decided to have arthroscopic knee surgery. "I was on the way of not walking at all is what it amounted to," Phyllis says. "I have to be moving and grooving." Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. August Ritter says, "When it comes to having surgery on an arthritic knee, it's almost always for the arthritis, or it's for a superimposed injury on top of it."

But before surgery, Dr. Ritter says patients go on a general treatment regimen, limiting activities, and taking over-the-counter medications. "The whole goal of treatment is to keep them as active as they can where there's a level of comfort. You start getting into a gray area when those things don't work," Dr. Ritter says. Even though there's a gray area for osteoarthritis patients, Dr. Ritter says arthroscopic knee surgery is very effective for other cases. "All kinds of sports injuries, people with work injuries, people who get hurt doing work around the house."

Despite the gray area for osteoarthritis patients, Phyllis is happy she had the surgery and says she is back to her old self again. "It works for some, for some it doesn't, but it was the answer for me and it worked," Phyllis says . If you suffer with osteo-arthritis, talk to your doctor about the treatment option that's best for you.