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Steroid shots don’t protect joints in knee osteoarthritis

November 16, 2015
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Steroid injections don’t guard against structural damage in knee osteoarthritis over the long term, according to a two-year study presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Steroids, often used to reduce inflammation, can provide short-term pain relief, but don’t seem to reduce the long-term risk of joint degradation, as physicians had once thought.

The study used magnetic resonance imaging to study cartilage damage and joint degradation in 140 patients over two years. The use of steroid injections did not reduce the risk of joint degradation compared to those taking a placebo, the results showed.

“Intra-articular corticosteroids are already in widespread use in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis, for short-term pain relief, but have never been tested specifically for effects on structural progression,” Timothy McAlindon, MD, MPH, professor of medicine at Tufts University and one of the study authors, said in a press briefing at the annual meeting. “I think we can conclude that intra-articular corticosteroids used at the dose of 40 mg for two years has no major effect on structure in the joint—either deleterious or beneficial—and that over the long-term we don't see an overall effect on patient-reported outcomes or physical function.”

Knee osteoarthritis is the primary cause of dependency in older adults and is the primary reason for knee replacements, notes a Tufts research spotlight.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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