This common joint pain treatment may be harmful, study says

Researchers conducted a study to explore the unintended effects of a joint pain injection

Some joint pain treatment may do more harm than good, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine recently conducted a study to explore the unintended effects of intra-articular corticosteroid injections, a common treatment for osteoarthritis and other joint-related pain syndromes.

For the assessment, the team examined 459 patients with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee, one of the most common joint disorders. The participants had all been treated with one to three intra-articular corticosteroid injections in 2018.

After analyzing the data, the team found that 8% of the subjects had complications, such as cartilage loss, stress fractures, bone deterioration and joint destruction. About 10% of the complications were in the hips and 4% in the knees.

The effects happened two to 15 months after the injections were given.

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"We are now seeing these injections can be very harmful to the joints with serious complications such as osteonecrosis, subchondral insufficiency fracture and rapid progressive osteoarthritis," coauthor Ali Guermazi said in a statement. "Intra-articular corticosteroid injection should be seriously discussed for pros and cons. Critical considerations about the complications should be part of the patient consent which is currently not the case right now."

Although the scientists do not fully understand why such issues occur, they believe intra-articular corticosteroid may be toxic to the cartilage. However, more research is needed.

The authors hope the radiologic community will administer “high-quality” studies about the topic to better understand the risks associated with the injections.

Want to learn more? Take a look at the full assessment, published in the Radiology journal.

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