When patients are diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee, they’re commonly told that knee replacement—major surgery with a long, painful recovery period—is their only option if conservative care doesn’t produce any relief. This can leave them in an extended limbo of ongoing, debilitating pain if they’re not good candidates for surgery or if they hesitate to undergo the procedure. The results in the case of a patient Dr. Saleh treated recently show that genicular artery embolization (GAE) can offer an effective alternative to relieve pain and restore mobility, even for someone who’s been told knee replacement was their only choice.
The patient, a middle-aged Black woman, had been referred to Dr. Saleh by her regular physician. Previously diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knee, she had received conservative care to attempt to manage the condition over an extended period, consisting of cortisone and steroid injections, physical therapy, and prescription pain medication. Despite these interventions, the patient experienced constant pain so severe she could barely walk. In her own words: “It just went on and on and nothing worked.” She also experienced swelling and needed to have fluid drained from her knee repeatedly.
She saw many specialists, all of whom insisted that she needed to have a full knee replacement. According to the patient, each one informed her that her joint was “bone on bone” and nothing they could do short of surgery would help. Every time she attempted to proceed, however, factors like elevated blood pressure made it impossible to move forward, adding to the reluctance she already felt for surgery. This situation persisted for five years.
The knee pain she suffered affected all aspects of her life. With extremely limited mobility, she was unable to go anywhere or participate in activities with family and friends. The perpetual agony interrupted her sleep at night and had begun to have a negative effect on her marriage. By the time she was referred to Dr. Saleh, she was in dire need of a solution.
A Noninvasive Alternative
Dr. Saleh requested the records from her previous attempts at seeking treatment to evaluate her case. He then told the patient about a new type of procedure that he would like to try if she were willing: genicular artery embolization, which reduces the inflammation associated with knee osteoarthritis by reducing blood flow to the synovium (the lining of the knee) in order to relieve pain naturally. Unlike knee replacement surgery, this minimally invasive technique is performed on an outpatient basis by an interventional radiologist, and it doesn’t require general anaesthesia or large incisions.
The procedure took about 45 minutes and was performed with local anaesthesia. She went home the same day, using crutches to keep pressure off the knee as she healed. She reported some soreness and mild swelling in the days after her procedure but described it as nothing compared to the pain she had been living with. She said that after a week she felt “like a brand-new person” and after two weeks, she was able to go up and down the stairs in her home without trouble.
Among the advantages of GAE, the patient cited the fact that it didn’t require lengthy downtime or extensive rehabilitation, and that she didn’t have any scars on her knee afterwards. Most importantly, the procedure removed the pain that had destroyed her quality of life. She said, “He [Dr. Saleh] was a godsend, and it was a miracle … what he did for me.” While GAE can’t give her back the years she lost to knee pain, now she’s able to return to the activities that osteoarthritis had made impossible.
Providing Innovative Care
Too often patients suffer from conditions like osteoarthritis of the knee because they don’t know that alternatives to surgery exist. At the Vein & Fibroid Treatment Center, we specialize in treatments like GAE that restore quality of life and relieve pain without the risks and complications that can accompany major surgeries. We work with each patient to ensure they know all their options and can pick the treatment path that is right for them. To find out more about how GAE can provide an alternative to traditional approaches to knee osteoarthritis, contact us here.