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Study: Common Knee Surgery May Boost Arthritis Risk

Repairing tears in meniscus cartilage may increase the risk of osteoarthritis and cartilage loss in some patients.

Published: December 4, 2014

Minor knee surgery to repair meniscal tear may increase the risk of osteoarthritis and cartilage loss in some patients, according to a study presented yesterday at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in Chicago.

In their study, researchers examined the MRI scans of 355 knees with arthritis, and compared them to a similar number of knees without arthritis. The average age of the patients was about 60 and most were overweight. Their findings:

  • Arthritis. All 31 knees that were operated on to repair meniscal tears developed arthritis within a year, compared with 59% of knees with meniscal damage that did not have surgery.
  • Cartilage loss. Cartilage loss occurred in nearly 81% of knees that had meniscal surgery, compared with almost 40% of knees with meniscal damage that did not have surgery.

"We found that patients without knee osteoarthritis who underwent meniscal surgery had a highly increased risk for developing osteoarthritis and cartilage loss in the following year compared to those that did not have surgery, regardless of presence or absence of a meniscal tear in the year before," says study author Frank Roemer, MD, from Boston University School of Medicine and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, in a society news release.

Dr. Roemer says that even though surgery to repair meniscal tears is common, "increasing evidence is emerging that suggests meniscal surgery may be detrimental to the knee joint." He adds that the indications for meniscal surgery "might need to be discussed more carefully in order to avoid accelerated knee joint degeneration."

Dan O'Connor

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