The $4 billion dollar placebo

The $4 billion dollar placebo
What about knee surgery?



To decide whether patients are actually benefitting from surgery, medical researchers will split patients into two groups and perform a surgery on one group while performing a "sham" surgery on the other. From The Wall Street Journal:

A fake surgical procedure is just as good as real surgery at reducing pain and other symptoms in some patients suffering from torn knee cartilage, according to a new study that is likely to fuel debate over one of the most common orthopedic operations.

As many as 700,000 people in the U.S. undergo knee surgery each year to treat tears in a crescent-shaped piece of cartilage known as the meniscus, which acts as a shock absorber between the upper and lower portions of the knee joints. The tears create loose pieces of cartilage that doctors have long thought interfere with motion of the joints, causing pain and stiffness.  

But researchers in Finland who studied two sets of patientsone that received the surgery, and another that was led to believe that it hadobserved no significant differences in improvement between the groups after one year.

Although the real surgery did decrease some patient’s pain, after 12 months, there was no difference.

The study is likely to stir controversy over the minimally invasive procedure, known as partial meniscectomy, which can cost between $3,000 and $6,000. The study’s authors estimated that it accounts for $4 billion in annual medical costs in the U.S.

– Fake Knee Surgery as Good as Real Procedure, Study Finds, The Wall Street Journal>>
– Ella Harper – The Camel Girl, the Charles Eisenmann Collection at Syracuse University>>

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