Thanks to a technique developed by UK scientists, millions of people could be spared the crippling pain and disability induced by osteoarthritis (OA). Called Spatially Offset Raman Spectroscopy (SORS), it involves a chemical analysis of the bone with the help of a laser penetrating the skin and has the potential to identify OA before symptoms appear, the Daily Express reported.
The method was developed as part of a study conducted by the University College London in partnership with the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. The leader of the research team, Professor Allen Goodship, said the project was still in its early stages but the results were promising. In the future, the technique could become an effective screening tool, allowing doctors to make accurate predictions about the likelihood of OA development. Early identification of the disease will make it possible to act before joint cartilage has sustained permanent damage. Doctors would also be able to recommend lifestyle changes that could delay OA progression, Goodship said.
In addition to being a discovery of tremendous importance for patients, SORS also has the potential to significantly cut costs for the NHS, the Daily Express added. OA, which is the most common form of arthritis, affects about 8.5 million Britons, with 20% of people over 45 believed to suffer from knee OA. The annual treatment bill for the NHS amounts to a massive £5.2 billion and the number of knee replacement operations stands at minimum 77,000, while hip operations have reached 66,000.