- Non-surgical, minimally invasive treatment effectively provides pain relief both immediately and in the long term.
- Patients usually go home the same day after a brief postoperative examination after undergoing genicular artery embolization or GAE.
- By reducing inflammation, researchers found that they could relieve or even eliminate the pain associated with arthritis.
Arthritis is one of the leading causes of pain associated with people all over the world. Nonetheless, there may be a promising approach that can relieve pain for at least 12 months.
Researchers at UCLA Health have explored a non-surgical and minimally invasive treatment option for arthritis that provides effective pain relief both immediately and in the long term.
Through a technique called genicular artery embolization, or GAE, physicians can relieve arthritis pain in the knees within hours of the procedure.
Arthritis is pain and swelling in the joints of the body after cartilage has been damaged from overuse. It causes stiffness, immobility, and discomfort, which usually gets older with age.
When cartilage is depleted, an inflammatory enzyme is released, causing joint pain.
And with more than 100 types of arthritis, it is one of the most common diseases affecting people.
Artery embolization is an outpatient procedure designed specifically to restrict an inflammatory enzyme. GAE takes about 1 to 2 hours to complete, and patients usually go home the same day after examination shortly after the operation.
During this procedure, a small catheter is directed from the groin towards the blood vessels of the knee. Small particles are then inserted to block part of the blood flow, causing embolization to the knee.
By doing this, the inflammatory symptoms associated with arthritis are reduced. By reducing inflammation, researchers can reduce or even eliminate the pain associated with this condition.
The Arthritis Foundation reports that while at least 54 million Americans have been diagnosed with arthritis by a physician, the number does not appear to be underestimated. Experts estimate that more than 91 million adults have arthritis. While there is no cure, there are steps to prevent and reduce the pain.
“Nonoperative or minimally invasive procedures such as genicular artery embolization can prevent pain and improve mobility, so this can be a good option for patients who are just too risky to have surgery,” said the Dr. Manny Sethi, assistant professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
The procedure is not new and is the largest study approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States to evaluate this embolization method to treat arthritis in the knee. It included 40 people who were not candidates for total knee replacement and did not benefit from traditional therapies such as NSAIDs, physical therapy, and injections.
The researchers found that the average pain score was 8 out of 10 before the procedure. One week after the procedure, it was 3 out of 10 on average. About 70 percent of patients reported a greater than 50 percent reduction in pain a year after the procedure.
Not everyone is a good candidate for this approach. UCLA Health states that the most suitable patients are people aged 40 and 80, have moderate to severe knee pain and have not benefited from other treatments.
Sethi told Healthline that while this is a good option for older people who cannot undergo surgery, more research may be needed to confirm these conclusions.
“We certainly need more controlled and randomized studies to help us understand the true impact of embolization. However, this seems like a relatively safe and non-invasive option for non-surgical patients looking for additional options, ”said Sethi.
Although arthritis is a condition that many people get, it can be prevented even before surgery or procedures are needed.
“The biggest thing is that we’re not talking about basic weight loss,” Sethi told Healthline. “Taking 5 to 10 pounds off your body is like taking 50 pounds off your joints – it’s a great relief to your joints. “
It also encouraged muscle strengthening, stretching, being active, walking more, and not smoking as other preventative measures that can slow down arthritis.