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Here's How Our Alternative Knee Replacement Works

Posted on July 10, 2023

Recently, our interventional radiologists in Dallas and Houston started offering an alternative knee replacement procedure. Called GAE, or Genicular Artery Embolization, this minimally invasive procedure relieves knee pain and inflammation by decreasing blood flow to spots that have been damaged by osteoarthritis. But why do you get osteoarthritis? Why does this condition damage your knee? And why might you need an alternative knee replacement to relieve your pain? Let's dive in and find out!

What Causes Knee Damage man with elbows on knees

The joints in your knee are meant to work like hinges, letting you bend it and move with ease. And, when working properly, this great design lets your kneel, walk, run and jump without even thinking about your movements. Unfortunately, all that activity can wear down the joints in your knee. When that happens, the cartilage that covers your knee bones starts to wear down or even tear. Now, osteoarthritis can set in. And pain will follow shortly, along with stiffness and limits on your mobility.

As you age, your knees are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, 10% of men over the age of 60 and 13% of women in that age group suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee. They all want pain relief. And many wish to avoid surgery. For that reason, alternative knee replacements like GAE are in-demand procedures.

Alternative Knee Replacement: What to Expect with GAE

While genicular artery embolization is a relatively new treatment for osteoarthritis, it's already a promising one. And that's because it takes a new approach to relieving knee pain: targeting inflammation, instead of cartilage degradation. You see, while bone-on-bone contact degrades your bones, inflammation can speed up that degradation. So, by relieving inflammation, we can often slow osteoarthritis progression. In turn, you can find knee pain relief without surgery.

But how long does GAE relief last? In one study from UCLA Medical Center, researchers followed 40 patients for one year after receiving genicular artery embolization.  At the end of that year, 70% of the patients said they had less pain, less stiffness and less difficulty walking. Even better? They'd found relief with this alternative knee replacement, even though other non-surgical treatments, like injections, hasn't helped them previously.

Inside the Procedure

How does genicular arthery embolization work? When you come in for this outpatient procedure, we'll make a tiny incision in the crease of your leg so we can gain access for a catheter to your femoral artery. Next, guided by specialized imaging, we'll get the catheter to up to three of the seven genicular arteries feeding your knee joint's blood supply.

During the procedure, you'll be awake, so you can help us pinpoint the exact source of your knee pain. Once we've identified the ideal targets, we'll insert small beads into the catheter, cutting off blood flow to the arteries responsible for your painful inflammation. Altogether, this procedure should last about two hours. Once we're done, we'll keep you for observation until we're sure you're doing well. Then, while you'll need to modify your activity levels for a few days after GAE, you'll be able to go home on the same day as the procedure, without having to stay overnight in a hospital.

Alternative Knee Replacement: Who is a Candidate?

Are you wondering if GAE is your best option for treating knee pain? Ideally, patients asking for genicular artery embolization will have suffered with chronic knee pain for at least six months. And they should try at least one other non-surgical treatment option first. If you smoke, GAE probably isn't for you, as this habit could impede your recovery. Not a smoker? And ready to find relief without surgery? Contact our Dallas or Houston offices and ask for a alternative knee replacement consultationask for a alternative knee replacement consultationask for a alternative knee replacement consultation.

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