Osteoarthritis Slows Recovery Following Knee Surgery

Author:  Metcalfe David

Date:  July 2007

As if arthritis sufferers were not already disadvantaged, they also face slower rates of recovery following knee surgery. According to research announced this month at the Annual Meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, being female and suffering from osteoarthritis are both risk factors for delayed recovery after knee arthroscopy. Peter Fabricant, the Yale medical student who led this study, found that "people with osteoarthritis also did not do as well as others" and that women also "showed poorer short-term recovery than men in the first year following arthroscopic meniscal tear removal surgery". According to Fabricant, this is significant as "physicians need to be able to discuss with patients how long it might be before they can return to optimal function levels in work and activities of daily living".

These researchers examined 126 cases of arthroscopic partial meniscectomy and compared the recovery outcomes with potential risk factors. Although it has long been established that age, obesity, and the extent of tissue removal are negatively associated with long-term recovery, Fabricant and his colleagues found that these factors did not have any great impact on recovery in the short-term.

Around 636,000 arthroscopic knee procedures are performed in the United States each year. In this type of surgery, a camera and other instruments are fed through a small incision in the knee. During arthroscopic partial meniscectomy, these instruments are used to remove tiny fragments of cartilage called menisci. In the healthy knee, menisci act as tiny shock absorbers which disperse friction as the joint is exercised. , which are pieces of cartilage that should act as shock absorbers in the knee.

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint condition caused by over-use, has long been associated with reduced knee function. It is, however, unclear how being female acts as a risk factor to delay recovery following knee arthroscopy.

- By David Metcalfe.