Arthroscopic knee surgery

Status: Decision completed

Policy context

Safety, efficacy, and cost issues regarding arthroscopic knee surgery versus medical management for osteoarthritis and/or pain. Concern over whether surgery is effective at improving function or relieving pain, rates of re-surgery, and complications.

Primary criteria ranking

  • Safety = Low
  • Efficacy = High
  • Cost = High


Osteoarthritis is a chronic and painful joint disease caused by degeneration that affects more than 20 million people, the most common joint disease in the United States. Knee osteoarthritis causes thinning and softening of the cartilage in the knee that absorbs shock and allows joint surfaces to glide over one another. Arthroscopic knee surgery in patients with osteoarthritis associated knee pain is performed to visualize the knee joint, remove excess fluids and worn or loose bodies. Despite approximately one million arthroscopic knee surgeries performed annually in the US, important clinical questions have not been answered about the effectiveness of the intervention and there is wide variation in its use.