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Arthroscopic surgery was not effective for relieving pain or improving function in osteoarthritis of the knee

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 QUESTION: In patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, is arthroscopic surgery effective for relieving pain and improving function?


Randomised (allocation concealed*), blinded (patients and outcome assessors),* placebo controlled trial with 2 years of follow up.


A Veterans Affairs medical centre in Houston, Texas, USA.


180 patients who were ≤75 years of age (mean age 52 y, 93% men), had osteoarthritis of the knee as defined by the American College of Rheumatology, reported at least moderate knee pain (scored ≥4 on a visual analogue scale of 0–10) despite maximal medical treatment for ≥6 months, and had not received arthroscopy in the previous 2 years. Exclusion criteria were severity grade ≥9 (maximum 12), severe deformity, or serious medical problems. Follow up was 89% at 1 year and 91% at 2 years.


After stratification for severity of osteoarthritis, patients were allocated to 1 of 3 groups: lavage (n=61), …

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  • For correspondence: Dr N P Wray, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA. nwray{at}

  • Abstract and commentary also appear in ACP Journal Club.

  • Source of funding: Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • *See glossary.