But maybe I was wrong.
If you’re older, and have a meniscus tear, it appears that you’ll do just as well skipping surgery and focusing on physical therapy instead. That’s according to a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study, the results of which were published a few months ago in the New England Journal of Medicine.
351 patients, aged 45 and older, who had a torn meniscus and arthritis as well were randomly assigned either to surgery or six weeks of physical therapy (those whose treatment consisted of physical therapy were allowed to have surgery if their bad knee didn’t improve; 30 percent opted to do so before the end of the one-year study).
The patients who didn’t have surgery fared as well as those who did. They had a similar level of pain relief and improvement in function. (Note: It’s important to point out that chances are good they had less severe meniscus tears that were more likely to heal without intervention.)
There’s still a role for surgeons, notes Dr. Jeffrey Katz, who led the study and was quoted in this Boston Globe summary of the results.
Immediate surgery may ... be more appropriate for younger folks who get a torn meniscus from an injury rather than from arthritis and aging, according to Katz, since previous research suggests these sudden tears often require surgery to fix and take longer to heal on their own. People in their 20s and 30s also recuperate more quickly from the procedure than those over age 65.Even so, it’s nice to know that studies are confirming what a lot of us already suspect: that for a lot of knee problems, surgery shouldn’t be considered the first option, but rather the last.