Arthritis Patient Holding His Knee

There’s an increasing drive among private insurance/health companies to stop funding knee arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) on patients with arthritis. The companies would claim that the surgery doesn’t make any difference, but are they right?

This is one of those frustrating situations where the actions of a few have started to impact on the many.

Generally speaking, keyhole surgery in cases of severe arthritis is likely to have little (if any) benefit. Despite the evidence, a number of ‘overenthusiastic’ knee surgeons have carried out keyhole treatments on patients. Unsurprisingly, the results have been underwhelming and medical insurers have pulled the funding – in some cases for any patient over the age of 35. You can hardly blame them. What’s the point in funding treatments that simply don’t work?

Yet keyhole surgery can make a difference in certain instances. In cases of mild to moderate arthritis, cartilage tears, or where mechanical issues (locking or catching sensations) are caused by a loose piece of bone, knee arthroscopy can be of considerable benefit. To be clear, it can’t ‘fix’ the arthritis, but it can alleviate some of the most pronounced and often most painful symptoms.

Blanket approaches, statements or bans don’t tend to work very well in the medical world. There’s always an exception, always a perfectly legitimate counter-argument that immediately makes a mockery of attempts to take a collective approach to issues that are always individual.

As a knee surgeon, I would argue that each patient needs to be assessed before we can make a decision that keyhole surgery doesn’t have a role to play in helping their arthritis. To miss this crucial step, is to potentially deny many patients the relief that can come from keyhole surgery.

If you are experiencing knee pain caused by arthritis and want to explore your treatment options, talk to the consultants of Yorkshire Knee Clinic.

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