WCBS-TV—New York—May 11, 2010
Perhaps your doctor has recommended arthroscopic surgery to easy the pain. Well, a simple injection may make that surgery even more successful.
Arthroscopy is really best for people with a cartilage tear or a frayed ligament - not so good for generalized arthritis. Now a new study finds that people who have arthroscopy for a cartilage tear do much better when the doctor adds some injections of artificial joint lubricant.
Bridget Murray, a knee arthritis patient at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, suffered from problems with range of motion, stability and pain in the knee.
"Any going up and down the subway stairs…for work it was awful," said Murray. "It was very painful and even just…in bed even with legs straight out…it was very painful."
X-rays and MRIs confirmed what her doctor already suspected: Murray had significant osteoarthritis in her knee, as well as a tear in her meniscus.
Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, did arthroscopic surgery on Murray's knee to repair the cartilage tear.
Normally, that would be the only step, but Murray volunteered for a study in which some patients got three injections of a synthetic joint lubricant called Hyalgan, while others got injections of a placebo.
The study, published in the American Journal of Orthopedics, found that patients who got the injections did better than those who got the placebos.
"When we say 'much better' what we mean is less pain on an actual scale…much better range of motion, so the knee would bend better, and less swelling," said Dr. Westrich.
Murray says it took about six months for her knee to get better. Now, a year later, she's almost back to full activity.
"I can climb stairs, you know, ride a bike…walking again."
It's not a miracle cure for knee pain, but it doesn't have much of a downside – other than the cost – and for some people, it significantly decreases their pain.