This is he-said-she-said health care journalism that applies no critical analysis and is not helpful for readers.
Whether the meta-analysis is sound or not – and whether the US orthopedist’s objections are sound or not – relies on a critical evaluation of evidence – which is something this story didn’t provide.
No discussion of cost. One estimate we quickly found online put the cost at about $1500 per knee – perhaps without insurance coverage.
The story only discussed the Swiss meta-analysis conclusion of “minimal benefits and potential for harm.” Yet it allowed a US orthopedist to claim that “This is most effective in relatively younger patients, 40 to 50 to 60 year olds, and…in people with mild to moderate forms of the disease.” Neither statement is backed up by any numbers.
Again, the story states that the meta-analysis found “potential for harm.” Further, it reported:
The most common side effects patients undergoing viscosupplementation may endure are flare-ups – where the knee becomes hot and swollen within 24 hours after the injection – and effusions, where excessive joint fluid collects inside the knee. The researchers in Switzerland reviewed the existing studies and concluded that viscosupplementation was associated with an increase in these and other adverse events.
But there was no description of how often this was seen – making the issue almost useless to readers. Is it 1 in 100 patients? 10 in 100? 50 in 100?
No critical analysis.
It positions a 177-study meta-analysis against the opinion of one doctor.
No disease mongering of knee osteoarthritis.
While some data (not much) is cited from the Swiss meta-analysis, no one from that research team was interviewed.
The only interview weight was given over to a US critic. Why? How was he chosen? Why was he given this platform?
No meaningful comparison of data were provided.
The story never explained the availability of the viscosupplementation approach.
No claims of novelty were made.
We can’t be sure of the extent to which the story may have relied on a news release.