PainSci summary of Moseley 2002?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★★5-star ratings are for sentinel studies, excellent experiments with meaningful results. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
In this landmark and fascinating study, people with osteoarthritis improved equally well regardless of whether they received a real surgical procedure or a sham, which is a particularly striking example of the placebo effect and implies that belief can have an effect even on a “mechanical” knee problem. From the abstract: “In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic debridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure.”
In 2008, these findings were fully supported by a Cochrane Collaboration review (Laupattarakasem) which concluded that “there is ‘gold’ level evidence that arthoscopic debridement has no benefit,” and by New England Journal of Medicine (Kirkley) which reported that “surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee provides no additional benefit to optimized physical and medical therapy.”
This study inspired more comparisons of orthopedic surgeries to shams. By 2016, at least four more popular surgeries have been shown to have no benefit (Louw 2016).
original abstract†Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
BACKGROUND: Many patients report symptomatic relief after undergoing arthroscopy of the knee for osteoarthritis, but it is unclear how the procedure achieves this result. We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of arthroscopy for osteoarthritis of the knee.
METHODS: A total of 180 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee were randomly assigned to receive arthroscopic debridement, arthroscopic lavage, or placebo surgery. Patients in the placebo group received skin incisions and underwent a simulated debridement without insertion of the arthroscope. Patients and assessors of outcome were blinded to the treatment-group assignment. Outcomes were assessed at multiple points over a 24-month period with the use of five self-reported scores--three on scales for pain and two on scales for function--and one objective test of walking and stair climbing. A total of 165 patients completed the trial.
RESULTS: At no point did either of the intervention groups report less pain or better function than the placebo group. For example, mean (+/-SD) scores on the Knee-Specific Pain Scale (range, 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more severe pain) were similar in the placebo, lavage, and debridement groups: 48.9+/-21.9, 54.8+/-19.8, and 51.7+/-22.4, respectively, at one year (P=0.14 for the comparison between placebo and lavage; P=0.51 for the comparison between placebo and debridement) and 51.6+/-23.7, 53.7+/-23.7, and 51.4+/-23.2, respectively, at two years (P=0.64 and P=0.96, respectively). Furthermore, the 95 percent confidence intervals for the differences between the placebo group and the intervention groups exclude any clinically meaningful difference.
CONCLUSIONS: In this controlled trial involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, the outcomes after arthroscopic lavage or arthroscopic debridement were no better than those after a placebo procedure.
- “Arthroscopic debridement for knee osteoarthritis,” W Laupattarakasem, M Laopaiboon, P Laupattarakasem, and C Sumananont, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008.
- “A Randomized Trial of Arthroscopic Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the Knee,” Alexandra Kirkley, Trevor B Birmingham, Robert B Litchfield, J Robert Giffin, Kevin R. Willits, Cindy J. Wong, Brian G. Feagan, Allan Donner, Sharon H Griffin, Linda M D’Ascanio, Janet E Pope, and Peter J Fowler, New England Journal of Medicine, 2008.
- “A Systematic Review of Clinical Outcomes in Patients Undergoing Meniscectomy,” Michael J Salata, Aimee E Gibbs, and Jon K Sekiya, American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2010.
- “Sham Surgery in Orthopedics: A Systematic Review of the Literature,” Adriaan Louw, Ina Diener, César Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, and Emilio J Puentedura, Pain Med, 2016.
- Surgery: The ultimate placebo (book), by Ian Harris (book review).
These eleven articles on PainScience.com cite Moseley 2002 as a source:
- Save Yourself from IT Band Syndrome! — All your treatment options for Iliotibial Band Syndrome reviewed in great detail, with clear explanations of recent scientific research supporting every key point
- Save Yourself from Low Back Pain! — Low back pain myths debunked and all your treatment options reviewed
- Save Yourself from Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome! — Patellofemoral pain syndrome (aka runner’s knee) explained and discussed in great detail, including every imaginable self-treatment option and all the available scientific evidence
- Save Yourself from Plantar Fasciitis! — Plantar fasciitis explained in great detail, including every possible treatment option, and all supported by recent scientific research
- Save Yourself from Neck Pain! — A complete guide to chronic neck pain and the disturbing sensation of a “crick”
- Your Back Is Not Out of Alignment — Debunking the obsession with alignment, posture, and other biomechanical bogeymen as major causes of pain
- Should You Get A Lube Job for Your Arthritic Knee? — Reviewing the science of injecting artificial synovial fluid, especially for patellofemoral pain
- Surprising Pain Science — Counterintuitive results and the fallibility of “common sense” about pain, injury, and rehab
- Do Nerve Blocks Work for Neck Pain and Low Back Pain? — Analysis of the science of stopping the pain of facet joint syndrome with nerve blocks, joint injections, and nerve ablation
- Knee Surgery Sure is Useless! — Evidence that arthroscopic knee surgery for osteoarthritis is about as useful as a Nerf hammer
- Does Cartilage Regeneration Work? — A review of knee cartilage “patching” with autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI)
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- Effectiveness of customised foot orthoses for Achilles tendinopathy: a randomised controlled trial. Munteanu 2015 Br J Sports Med.
- A Bayesian model-averaged meta-analysis of the power pose effect with informed and default priors: the case of felt power. Gronau 2017 Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology.
- The neck and headaches. Bogduk 2014 Neurol Clin.
- Agreement of self-reported items and clinically assessed nerve root involvement (or sciatica) in a primary care setting. Konstantinou 2012 Eur Spine J.
- Effect of NSAIDs on Recovery From Acute Skeletal Muscle Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Morelli 2017 Am J Sports Med.