What women need to know about arthritis
Cory Calendine, M.D., shares some surprising information about arthritis treatment options.
You might think arthritis sufferers are split evenly across genders. That’s not quite the case. Vanderbilt Bone & Joint’s Cory Calendine, M.D., talks statistics and new treatments happening in the world of bone health:
We’re seeing knee replacements designed specifically for women. Is arthritis more common in women?
Sixty percent of all arthritis diagnosed by physicians is in women, so there’s a population and need there. Even though arthritis is more common in women, women are three times less likely to have a knee replacement than men. We want to bridge that gap; we want to reach out to that population. A “female” artificial knee is designed to fit the shape of a woman. We all know men and women all come in various shapes, and that’s true across genders as well. The issue is the fit of the implant with the bone, and there are certain gender differences involved. For example, women’s knees are typically narrower than men’s. Today we are able to personalize knee replacements to a great degree to fit women’s bone geometries.
What’s new in terms of ways to treat early arthritis?
The use of robotics is becoming more common in surgery to perform partial knee arthroplasty and total hip arthroplasty. (Arthroplasty is joint replacement.) Another recent innovation is an injection of a fluid, believe it or not, that we get from chicken combs. It’s hyaluronic acid, which is a normal substance in your cartilage. We’re able to inject those into the knee joint and it acts as a lubricant to make sure it doesn’t go on to degenerate. So what we’re trying to do is save the cartilage you have. There are some options for cartilage replacement. To be honest, that’s a very young and developing field, so if we can do anything to save your cartilage, we want to do that.
Are there negative side effects to the injections?
The side effects are minimal. Because they are a chicken product, if you’re allergic to chicken you would have to go with a synthetically produced product. There are series of injections of either three to five injections into your knee. Any time we break the skin, there is a chance you could develop an infection — now that would be very rare, but barring those side effects, it’s very low risk.
Do patients see immediate relief?
They don’t. Steroid injections are out there, and those can help during acute periods of inflammation and those do help fairly immediately, over hours or certainly over one to two days. These injections, because they’re actually nourishing your cartilage that remains, it takes up to two months to see their full benefit.