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  • NYT Article Looks at 'Useless' Surgeries

    A recent online article in The New York Times (NYT) touches on a subject physical therapists and physical therapist assistants know all too well: the prevalence of certain back and knee surgeries whose effectiveness has been called into question.

    In "Why 'Useless' Surgery Is Still Popular," NYT reporter Gina Kolata looks at the continued popularity of spinal fusion and meniscus surgeries, even in the face of clinical trials and meta-analyses that dispute the usefulness of the procedures. She writes that unlike the process used to achieve federal approval for the use of certain drugs, surgeries can continue even after being proven ineffective through research.

    With no clear way to regulate which surgeries are permitted, "it looks as if the onus is on patients to ask what evidence, if any, shows that surgery is better than other options," Kolata writes.

    The article quotes Jeffrey Katz, a professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, who conducted a clinical trial comparing meniscus surgery with physical therapy. The results from Katz's research echoed other work that found no clear benefit to surgery. Kolata writes that Katz believes "patients should be told that physical therapy is a good first-line therapy for pain relief," but should also be reminded "surgery also relieves pain" and that relief can take longer with physical therapy.

    "At the end of the day, patients ought to choose," Katz tells NYT.

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