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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

Should you skip surgery for torn knee tissue?

For the nearly 20 percent of Americans considering surgery to fix their knee pain, a new Brigham and Women’s Hospital study suggests that they may want to hold off for a bit -- even if an imaging scan reveals a torn meniscus, the rubbery disk that cushions the knee joint. Most older individuals with meniscus tears that often occur with aging and arthritis get the same long-term relief with time and physical therapy as they do with surgery, according to the findings published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers looked at 351 patients aged 45 and older who had a torn meniscus along with arthritis and randomly assigned them to have either surgery or six weeks of physical therapy; the therapy group could switch to surgery if their knee problems didn’t improve over weeks or months, and 30 percent of the group eventually did before the year-long study was complete.

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