Living with knee problems can disrupt your quality of life, but hope is available. If you have knee arthritis, the new geniculate artery embolization (GAE) or “knee embolization” treatment, holds promise for those suffering from soreness, pain, and lack of mobility.
This condition can affect people of all ages, though it is most common in middle-aged and elderly adults. Osteoarthritis of the knee is a problem inside the knee joint. It occurs when the articular cartilage, the smooth caps at the end of the thigh and shin bones begin to break down. This interferes with the normal function of the knee. As the cartilage wears down, the severity of the symptoms – mostly knee pain – worsens. Traditionally, arthritis has been viewed by health care professionals as a “wear and tear” problem, however, that view is changing.
There appear to be multiple factors which come into play in determining whether an individual will develop arthritis:
It may not be possible to prevent osteoarthritis in some people. However, there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of developing this debilitating condition. There is evidence that staying fit and at a healthy weight can reduce the likelihood of developing OA. A healthy diet can minimize inflammation in the body, possibly protecting against OA as well.
Most people with knee pain will either self treat with NSAIDs like aspirin or Advil, or go see a doctor. A few weeks of NSAID use will often be recommended to see if the pain goes away. At some point x-rays and/or an MRI may be ordered to look at the knee in more detail. The idea here is to differentiate issues like muscle strains, tendinitis or nerve injuries from an actual joint problem. Problems due to trauma, such as internal joint problems like a torn meniscus or ligament tear, need to be diagnosed and repaired or they will lead to premature OA of the joint.
Interestingly, many knee pain patients thought to have arthritis or internal joint problems are found to have varicose vein disease, which can imitate a knee joint problem. Read more about varicose vein.
If knee pain persists despite the use of NSAIDs, or if you have suffered an injury, it is time to see a physician and get assessed. Delaying could lead to unnecessary damage to the knee joint.
Once you are diagnosed with OA, first-line treatment is generally NSAID medications, such as Advil. Shoe inserts and/or knee braces may be used in certain circumstances. Physical therapy is often helpful.
As the problem progresses, steroid injections in the knee are often performed. These will generally last 1-3 months and will, unfortunately, become less effective as the problem worsens. An alternative to long term NSAID use and/or knee injections are stronger pain medications such as narcotics. Unfortunately, patients often become dependent on narcotics when used long term and this becomes its own problem.
Eventually, knee replacement becomes the only option. For younger patients, knee specialists will often try to delay knee replacement surgery as long as possible because knee replacements do not last forever.
The new treatment for managing knee pain from osteoarthritis is Geniculate Artery Embolization or GAE.
GAE is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a tiny catheter inserted into the arteries around the knee. Tiny particles are injected through the catheter, which blocks the smaller arteries that supply blood flow to the inner synovial lining of the knee joint. It has been found that this causes no damage to the joint but does provide relief from the pain of osteoarthritis.
The catheter used in this procedure is about the thickness of a strand of spaghetti and is inserted into the femoral artery at the top of the leg. There are no stitches or incisions. Recovery time is only a few hours and the patient typically notices relief of pain within a day or two.
GAE works because the knee pain of osteoarthritis is from chronic (long term) inflammation in the joint. This inflammation causes enlargement or thickening of the lining tissue of the joint, called the synovium. GAE shrinks the synovium, thereby relieving the pain.
Results of several studies have confirmed the safety of GAE, and shown it to provide substantial relief of knee pain for up to 3 years.
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