Study Finds Pain from Hip Osteoarthritis Shrinks the Brain

But joint replacement surgery to relieve hip OA pain may help the brain return to normal.

Arthritis Today—October 15, 2010

A new study has found that chronic pain caused by hip osteoarthritis, or OA, can actually shrink a brain region responsible for processing sensory cues and regulating consciousness and sleep.

The good news is that the brain shrinkage appears to be reversed when hip pain is relieved, in this case, through joint replacement surgery.

We knew before that patients with chronic pain had changes in the brain. What we did not know is they are reversible after surgery, says Michael Alexiades, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City who was not involved in the research. I think most people think most changes to the brain are irreversible and often for the worse, and here they are showing thats not true. The brain really can adapt one-way or the other. Its good to show that there are things we can do to make the brain revert back to a more normal state.

Doctors say the study makes a very strong argument for getting pain under control, especially when the physical pain is associated with walking.

Dr. Alexiades says its great to have this detailed way of studying improvement post-surgery.

Its a fascinating study from a neurological point of view and confirms what we as orthopaedists have seen for years. We can have patients walking little or horribly and after replacements go back to normal function and normal walking, and this confirms structurally their brain is agreeing with it, Dr. Alexiades says.

The study was published in the October 2010 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.
 
Read the full story at arthritistoday.org.

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