Knee Arthroscopic Surgery in Middle-Aged Patients With Meniscal Symptoms: A 3-Year Follow-up of a Prospective, Randomized Study

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Background:The optimal treatment for middle-aged patients with knee pain and meniscal lesions has been extensively debated. Most previous studies have revealed only short-term beneficial results of knee arthroscopic surgery. The authors have previously shown a positive benefit of knee arthroscopic surgery and an exercise program after 1 year when compared with an exercise program alone.Purpose:To evaluate if knee arthroscopic surgery combined with an exercise program provided an additional long-term benefit after 3 years compared with an exercise program alone in middle-aged patients with meniscal symptoms.Study Design:Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.Methods:Of 179 eligible patients, aged 45 to 64 years, 150 were randomized to (1) a 3-month exercise program (nonsurgery group) or (2) the same as group 1 plus knee arthroscopic surgery within 4 weeks (surgery group). The primary outcome was the change in the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) subscore of pain between baseline and the 3-year follow-up. Results from the 1-year follow-up have been published previously.Results:Both treatment groups improved significantly in the KOOS pain subscore at 3 years’ follow-up in the intention-to-treat and as-treated analyses (P < .001). The between-group difference for the change in the KOOS pain subscore between baseline and the 3-year follow-up was no longer statistically significant, neither in the intention-to-treat analysis (7.6 points; 95% CI, –0.6 to 15.9; P = .068) nor in the as-treated analysis (5.3 points; 95% CI, –3.1 to 13.8; P = .216). The factorial analysis of the effect of the intervention and age, onset of pain, and mechanical symptoms indicated that older patients improved more, regardless of treatment, and surgery may be more beneficial for patients without mechanical symptoms (as-treated analysis). The effect of the predictive factors on the KOOS pain subscore was uncertain because of the small sample size in the subgroup analyses.Conclusion:The benefit of knee arthroscopic surgery, seen at 1 year in middle-aged patients with meniscal symptoms, was diminished at 3 years and was no longer statistically significant.Clinical Relevance:Knee arthroscopic surgery may be beneficial for middle-aged patients with meniscal symptoms in addition to an exercise program. Older age and absence of mechanical symptoms should not be contraindications to surgery.Registration:NCT01288768 ( identifier)

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