According to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, researchers said the procedure could help reduce reliance on addictive opiates.
People with moderate to severe pain related to osteoarthritis face limited treatment options. Common approaches like injections of anesthetic and corticosteroids into the affected joints grow less effective as the arthritis progresses and worsens.
"Usually, over time patients become less responsive to these injections," said Felix M. Gonzalez, M.D., from the Radiology Department at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. "The first anesthetic-corticosteroid injection may provide six months of pain relief, the second may last three months, and the third may last only a month. Gradually, the degree of pain relief becomes nonsignificant."
Without pain relief, patients face the possibility of joint replacement surgery. Many patients are ineligible for surgery because of health reasons, whereas many others choose not to go through such a major operation.
For those patients, the only other viable option may be opiate painkillers, which carry the risk of addiction.