View Full Version : Placebo effects and surgery for overuse injuries

06-22-2006, 01:30 PM
Research has shown that arthroscopic debridement operations on the knee
for osteoarthritis often provide little more than a placebo effect. Many
patients report symptomatic relief after undergoing arthroscopy of the
knee but it is not clear how the procedure achieves this result. A
randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of arthroscopy for
osteoarthritis of the knee showed that the outcomes after arthroscopic
lavage or arthroscopic debridement were no better than those after a
placebo procedure (Moseley et al, 2002).

Does anyone know if anyone has done any similar research concerning
common surgical treatments for overuse injuries? Hutson (1997) has cast
doubt on the efficacy of many forms of medical treatment for overuse
injuries (such as splinting a sore wrist rather than resting it); hence
it would be interesting to know if the outcomes of surgery for carpal
tunnel syndrome (i.e. decompression of the carpal tunnel) ever reflect a
placebo effect (especially if this is merely due to rest after the


David McFarlane
Ergonomist, WorkCover Authority
New South Wales, Australia


1. J. Moseley, K. O'Malley, N. Petersen, T. Menke, B. Brody, D.
Kuykendall, J. Hollingsworth, C. Ashton and N. Wray, (2002), "A
Controlled Trial of Arthroscopic Surgery for Osteoarthritis of the
Knee", New England Journal of Medicine, July 11, 2002, Volume 347:81-88,
Number 2.

2. M. Hutson, (1997), "Work-Related Upper Limb Disorders: Recognition
and Management", (Butterworth-Heinemann; Oxford).

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