It might be hard to believe that arthroscopy has been around since the early 20th century. As early as 1912, Danish doctors were using arthroscopic procedures to look inside knee joints. By the 1920s, arthroscopy was a common means of diagnosing joint damage prior to surgery. Yet with more than 100 years of history behind it, arthroscopic procedures are getting a second look.

Arthroscopic surgery as a treatment for certain kinds of sports injuries is not necessarily being questioned. However, using the procedure to treat osteoarthritis, meniscal tears, and locking and clicking the knee joints is. It could be that arthroscopic surgery is not the best option for such cases.

A report published by the BMJ in May 2017 calls into question the use of arthroscopic procedures for people over 50 suffering from age-related issues. The report brought together a team of 18 experts who analyzed the results of a 2016 study alongside other historic data relating to arthroscopic surgeries. The panel of experts determined that the procedure is no better than exercise therapy for degenerative knee disease.

Arthroscopic Surgery Is a Popular Treatment

Arthroscopic surgery has been around for decades. It was introduced as a less invasive surgical method for repairing joint damage. Since its introduction, arthroscopic surgery has grown to become a $3.2 billion industry. Some 650,000 procedures are performed in the U.S. every year. But is such a large number actually necessary?

According to the 18 researchers, no. The researchers believe that the surgery should be avoided by people suffering from degenerative knee disease – a.k.a., osteoarthritis. The researchers maintain that exercise therapy is just as effective while being completely noninvasive and virtually cost-free.

It is also important to note that the researchers wrote in their paper that “further research is unlikely to alter this recommendation.” In other words, the 18 experts believe the evidence is solid enough that no further research is necessary. Whether that is reality or not is up to other experts to decide. What can be construed from the paper is that it is time to give arthroscopic surgery a second look as it relates to osteoarthritis.

Another Option Out There

As long as we are taking a second look at arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis, we should also be looking at other options. Two such options are PRP and stem cell therapies. According to Utah-based Apex Biologix, both therapies are gaining ground as alternatives to surgery. More doctors are learning to conduct the procedures in response to growing numbers of patients who want them.

The idea behind the procedures is to promote natural healing by encouraging the body to replace the lost tissue that goes hand-in-hand with osteoarthritis. As you may already know, osteoarthritis is the result of the breakdown and loss of cartilage within joint structures. It is a very common condition in the knees.

PRP therapy is sometimes used with osteoarthritis patients to better manage their pain. Some patients have shown remarkable improvement in that PRP injections can encourage the growth of new tissue. In other cases, stem cell therapy is used to replace lost tissue. There are even cases where doctors combine both PRP and stem cell therapies for maximum results.

PRP and stem cell therapies are not appropriate in every case. However, the amount of evidence suggesting the efficacy of the procedures is growing. PRP and stem cell therapies are minimally invasive, pose a near-zero risk of rejection and complications, and promote healing. The procedures deserve serious consideration in light of the fact that arthroscopic surgery may not always be the best choice.