Knee Arthroscopy Versus Conservative Management in Patients With Degenerative Knee Disease: A Systematic Review

BMJ Open. 2017 May 11;7(5):e016114. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016114.

Abstract

Objective: To determine the effects and complications of arthroscopic surgery compared with conservative management strategies in patients with degenerative knee disease.

Design: Systematic review.

Main outcome measures: Pain, function, adverse events.

Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Google Scholar and Open Grey up to August 2016.

Eligibility criteria: For effects, randomised clinical trials (RCTs) comparing arthroscopic surgery with a conservative management strategy (including sham surgery) in patients with degenerative knee disease. For complications, RCTs and observational studies.

Review methods: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias for patient-important outcomes. A parallel guideline committee (BMJ Rapid Recommendations) provided input on the design and interpretation of the systematic review, including selection of patient-important outcomes. We used the GRADE approach to rate the certainty (quality) of the evidence.

Results: We included 13 RCTs and 12 observational studies. With respect to pain, the review identified high-certainty evidence that knee arthroscopy results in a very small reduction in pain up to 3 months (mean difference =5.4 on a 100-point scale, 95% CI 2.0 to 8.8) and very small or no pain reduction up to 2 years (mean difference =3.1, 95% CI -0.2 to 6.4) when compared with conservative management. With respect to function, the review identified moderate-certainty evidence that knee arthroscopy results in a very small improvement in the short term (mean difference =4.9 on a 100-point scale, 95% CI 1.5 to 8.4) and very small or no improved function up to 2 years (mean difference =3.2, 95% CI -0.5 to 6.8). Alternative presentations of magnitude of effect, and associated sensitivity analyses, were consistent with the findings of the primary analysis. Low-quality evidence suggested a very low probability of serious complications after knee arthroscopy.

Conclusions: Over the long term, patients who undergo knee arthroscopy versus those who receive conservative management strategies do not have important benefits in pain or function.

Trial registration number: PROSPERO CRD42016046242.

Keywords: GRADE; Osteoarthritis; arthritis; knee pain; meniscus tear.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy / adverse effects*
  • Conservative Treatment*
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome