According to a published study, quarterly administered corticosteroid injections for knee arthritis amplified loss of cartilage within two years without offering any clinical benefit.   

The study team discovered that steroid injections that are injected into a patient every three months aren’t any different than a placebo for relieving knee pain in individuals with conditions like knee osteoarthritis.  The study team discovered that steroid injections led to a significant loss in the amount of bone cartilage within two years.

Even though the loss of cartilage isn’t linked with worsening of symptoms, however, the degree of cartilage loss has been linked with an increased rate of arthroplasty, and that raises the chances for an extended negative health consequence on joint health.  Based on these findings, the study team spoke against using steroid injections for the treatment of knee arthritis.

Knee arthritis is a degenerative joint disease, and it is the most prevalent form of arthritis which affects about 30 million adults in the U.S.

This health condition arises when there is a breakdown in cartilage—the tissue that both protects and covers the ends of bones. Osteoarthritis also affects the joints of the hands, knee, hips, and spine. The wear and tear of cartilage typically lead to inflammation, pain, and movement issues.

There isn’t any cure currently for osteoarthritis, but there are available treatments that can ensure the symptoms of this condition is managed. One of these available treatments that are recommended is corticosteroid injections; however, some studies like this new study have indicated that these injections might enhance pain or even worsen the condition with patients suffering from knee arthritis.    

Triamcinolone Caused A Significant Loss of Bone Cartilage

The new research team analyzed about 140 individuals with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. All individuals with this condition had inflammation of the synovial membrane, which lines the joints.

For two years, every 12 weeks, 70 individuals were injected with corticosteroid triamcinolone, which was injected directly into the knee joint. The other 70 study participants got a placebo in the form of a saline solution.  

When checked with patients that were administered the placebo, the patients who administered triamcinolone experienced a significant loss in cartilage volume; patients who were administered triamcinolone experienced a cartilage thickness loss of about 0.21 millimetres, compared to the placebo group which lost only 0.10 millimetres.  

Also, the study team found no significant differences in pain levels between the two groups and individuals who received triamcinolone had a substantial number of negative events linked to the treatment.

One limitation attributed to this study was that the corticosteroid injections might offer relief (short-term) for patients that might have been missed by the study’s pain measuring methods.

Source: Steroid Injections Increased Cartilage Loss In Knee Arthritis PDF