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Minimally invasive treatment benefits knee osteoarthritis patients

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New research shows that a minimally invasive treatment reduces pain and disability in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Geniculate artery embolisation (GAE) is an image-guided treatment that blocks key arteries in the knee to reduce inflammation and pain. Catheters are inserted through a pinhole-sized incision, blocking the very small arteries or capillaries within the lining of the knee, which reduces the inflammation caused by osteoarthritis.

The US trial of the procedure involved 13 patients with severe osteoarthritis pain, most of whom saw a significant reduction in pain and improvements in range of motion, avoiding more invasive measures.

“A majority of our patients with osteoarthritis of the knee saw significant pain reduction, not only just a few days after the procedure, but a month after as well, making this an accessible treatment for patients looking to improve their quality of life without surgery,” said Dr Sandeep Bagla, director of interventional radiology at the Vascular Institute of Virginia and lead author of the study. “We are very encouraged by the results and the implications for the millions suffering from this common, yet debilitating condition.”

In the study, each patient’s pain and disability were measured before and after the treatment. One month later, researchers followed the progress of eight patients and found that the procedure had significantly decreased pain, reduced stiffness, and increased physical function. Together the scales represent an 80% improvement in function compared with pre-procedure conditions, the Society of Interventional Radiology reported.

The findings were presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s recent Annual Scientific Meeting.

“This procedure could have a significant impact in the treatment of osteoarthritis pain as a whole,” Dr Bagla said. “The current mainstay of treatment in patients who have arthritis are pain medications, which come with significant side effects and risks.”

GAE provides another option for patients struggling with pain and may even allow them to avoid knee surgery and the need for opioid pain medications, he added.

It’s hoped that further studies will confirm the findings of the clinical trial and show what types of patients are the best candidates for this treatment.