For decades, surgeons treating meniscal tears have clipped and smoothed any dislodged cartilage they found. Why? Because it seemed like it would help. But now comes a study from doctors at the University of Buffalo suggesting that the practice, called debridement, doesn’t actually benefit the patient. In fact, patients who did not have dislodged cartilage removed recovered faster, with less pain, and ended up a year later with identical results. A University of Buffalo news release reports that the study followed 190 patients who were having arthroscopic partial meniscectomies (APM). Of those, 98 received debridement of the damaged cartilage and 92 did not receive debridement. Both groups had the same results one year after surgery, but prior to that, the group without debridement had less pain and better function than those who had the cartilage trimmed and smoothed.
“That was very surprising to us,” said Leslie Bisson, chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and lead author of the study. “We are bringing those patients back and doing X-rays at five years to see if it made a difference in their arthritis.” And no, surgeons at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, where Bisson and the other doctors involved in the study practice, are no longer debriding knee cartilage when repairing meniscal tears.