Jon Smith queries a new procedure to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis.
If you have osteoarthritis (OA), you won’t need me to tell you how painful it can be. Caused by the grinding of bone against bone as your protective knee cartilage wears away, OA is a chronic (i.e. long lasting) pain condition that can dramatically affect quality of life – and that’s why so much research goes into treatments designed to alleviate or prevent the pain whilst avoiding the need for knee replacement.
Recently, a new European study was launched which takes a dramatic and novel approach to the problem, by using tiny plastic beads as pain blockers. As Medical Xpress notes, “the procedure, called geniculate artery embolisation (GAE), involves positioning a plastic catheter tube into the abnormal knee blood vessels through a pinhole incision in the groin. X-rays are used to position the catheter into the arteries before the plastic beads are injected through it.”
The beads block the artery that supplies the knee – the geniculate artery – which in turn blocks the blood vessels around the knee which become inflamed and cause OA pain. It’s hoped that the trial will help patients off high-dose painkillers and improve their quality of life.
Now this is an interesting experimental study but it’s very early days. Key to the success of the study will be establishing any side effects of interrupting the blood flow. We don’t as yet know what those side effects might be, but the blood vessels are there for a reason – a constant blood flow is what helps tissue remain healthy and recover from injury. So there could conceivably be a detrimental effect on the soft tissue of the knee leading to loss of function or the death of the tissue (necrosis).
As with many such ongoing studies, there is hope for OA sufferers, but we have a long way to go to ensure that treatments are safe.
If you want help now to remove the pain of osteoarthritis, talk to a Yorkshire Knee Clinic knee surgeon.