(LOS ANGELES, California) – For the millions living with the pain and stiffness of knee osteoarthritis, there are few effective options short of joint replacement surgery, which requires months of recovery and physical therapy. Even then, many can’t be considered for surgery because of their age or other medical conditions.
Now, doctors at UCLA Health are offering a promising minimally invasive option that may delay or prevent the need for a knee replacement while offering significant pain relief, reduced inflammation and improved mobility.
To date, more than a hundred people have undergone the procedure at UCLA with more than 70 percent reporting improvement. “Although more study is needed, the preliminary results have been overwhelmingly positive. Patients who have lived with debilitating pain for years are able to improve within weeks without any major side effects and without physical therapy,” said Sid Padia, MD, an interventional radiologist at UCLA Health who refined a similar procedure first developed in Japan. “The outpatient procedure takes two hours, and patients are up and walking a few hours later.”
The painless procedure, called genicular artery embolization, involves injecting tiny particles into the arteries leading to the knee to reduce blood flow and, in turn, inflammation.
“While this is revolutionary for the treatment of osteoarthritis, it is a method that has been used in other areas of medicine for years, especially to shrink liver tumors and to treat uterine fibroids,” Dr. Padia said. “We use the same particles, the same materials and the same practices, but instead of treating tumors, we’re treating inflammation.”
UCLA will start clinical trials later this fall, and the procedure should be available at other institutions in the U.S. in 2021. UCLA has also begun using the procedure to treat arthritis pain in other areas of the body, such as the shoulder and elbow, with promising results.