Knee pain from arthritis? A minimally invasive, proven alternative to joint replacement
Geniculate artery embolization is effective when conservative treatments fail, and when patients don’t want or aren’t candidates for surgery
Knee pain from osteoarthritis affects millions of Americans. Osteoarthritis is breakdown of the joint cartilage and underlying bone. As this “wear and tear” disease progresses, it can impact an individual’s daily life and limit their activity. To help, people might curtail their typical activities in favor of low-impact exercises. They might try anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications. They may try joint injections to help with the pain.
Often, those solutions eventually stop working and the pain, stiffness, loss of motion and swelling become an unfortunate fact of life. After all, it’s thought that the joint damage in osteoarthritis is irreversible.
Is it time for surgery?
Not necessarily. While joint replacement surgery is effective, there is now a minimally invasive option that can be the right call for those who either want to avoid surgery, or for those who are not candidates for surgery. It’s called geniculate artery embolization (GAE). GAE is a cutting edge procedure that has already been proven to be highly safe and effective for improving the pain associated with osteoarthritis, without the need for surgery.
“Patients who may benefit from GAE are those with very symptomatic osteoarthritis and who have tried conservative measures like anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and joint injections,” says Dr. Ryan Aronberg, an interventional radiologist at Mecklenburg Radiology Associates.
“GAE is now filling a major need for better nonsurgical treatments of knee osteoarthritis”, added Dr. Aronberg, who performs the procedure.
It’s now clear that inflammation plays a prominent role in osteoarthritis, and that is partly carried out by growth of blood vessels supplying the joint lining (called the synovium). Geniculate artery embolization involves reducing this abnormal blood supply — which is called hypervascularity — to the diseased joint. The procedure is performed under twilight sedation and begins by introducing a catheter — a thin, flexible tube — into the blood vessels through a tiny incision in the groin. Real-time imaging (x-ray) is used to guide the catheter to the blood vessels of the knee, where tiny particles are then injected to reduce the abnormal blood vessels.
After GAE is performed, most patients go home the same day with only a Band-Aid. They may require over-the-counter medicines for discomfort over the next few days, but because the procedure is minimally invasive, the pain and recovery time are far less than with surgery.
Most patients begin to experience relief from their symptoms within two weeks. In the largest U.S. study to-date evaluating GAE, average pain scores decreased from 8 out of 10 before GAE to 3 out of 10 after GAE. After one year, most patients still reported a reduction in pain scores of more than 50%. It was also extremely safe, with very few reported complications.
For Dr. Aronberg, “being able to improve a patient’s pain and help them get back to the activities that make them happy is incredibly gratifying”.If you are a physician or patient wanting to learn more about geniculate artery embolization, reach out to us today at 704.384.9654 or visit our website.