University Pain Medicine Center, Somerset, NJ, New Jersey Top Doctor for 6 Consecutive Years
If you suffer from knee pain, you have lots of company. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 52 million Americans are told by their doctors that they have arthritis. Often, it’s a painful, frustrating, and life-limiting arthritis.
As a Clinical Assistant Professor at Ruger’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, I’ve treated thousands of patients for knee pain. I always start with conservative treatment: heat or cold packs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Acetaminophen, and/or low-impact aerobic exercises. I also work with my patients who need to lose some of that excess weight.
But sometimes the conservative approach doesn’t last and the pain comes back so much that my patient’s quality of life is affected. When that happens, we look to other approaches like steroid injections or hyaluronic acid (HA) injections to treat the arthritis pain.
Both of those approaches work well, but are temporary fixes that may not be right for everyone.
About a year ago I was asked to be a lead investigator in a clinical study for a new and very interesting alternative to either steroids or traditional HA injections. In fact, the new injection for arthritic knees I was testing may surprise you: It’s donated and concentrated amniotic fluid!
Yes, amniotic fluid is what is normally discarded after women give birth to a new bouncing baby girl or boy. But we’ve since discovered that it may well have a second life post-birth as a treatment for arthritic knee pain.
The tested and processed donated amniotic fluid came to us from a company that collects it from women and thoroughly tests it for safety according to the FDA and American Association of Tissue Bank (AATB) guidelines.
Why Amniotic Fluid?
First, it is discarded after birth, so it’s available. Second, it is very slippery and has almost all the same compounds (like hyaluronan, phospholipids, and cholesterol) that healthy synovial knee fluid has.
Our theory is that using donated amniotic fluid to treat arthritic knees might just be an effective way to supplement the existing, but deteriorating synovial fluid. The result: improved lubrication and cushioning that can thereby reduce the stiffness and pain of an arthritic knee.
My clinic was one of 28 clinics from around the United States to study this new, natural approach. Earlier this year I presented the interim results from all the sites at two major physician conferences.
While still early, the results are very exciting. Here is a summary of what I presented at the Florida Pain Seminar and later, the American Pain Management meeting.
Thirty days after receiving an injection of processed amniotic fluid, 84% of patients in our study reported that their pain had declined by 40% or more.
We asked patients to return again at three months, at which point, we discovered that 81% still had pain relief greater than 40%.
Six months later, the percentage of patients who reported their pain was lower by at least 40% was hanging in there at 67%.
These were preliminary results, and not all patients will experience this kind of pain relief. Furthermore, the relief did tail off at the six-month mark.
Nonetheless, this is very encouraging data. It tells us that amniotic fluid is a promising natural alternative to steroid injections and traditional hyaluronic acid injections.
One of the effects of knee arthritis is that it breaks down your synovial fluid and takes away its ability to cushion and lubricate moving knee joints. Our hypothesis for the study was that amniotic fluid, very similar to healthy synovial fluid, would help restore natural lubrication and protection.
The data is telling us that it did that and we clearly saw patients with much less pain as a result.
There will be more testing, but with these results, amnio-viscosupplementation is now a part of my practice for patients with knee arthritis.
After all these years of addressing the complex problem of joint pain, I can say that arthritic knee pain is very treatable, and there are several ways to minimize its effect on your life. For most patients, the conservative approaches work well. But when, despite your best efforts, the pain in your knee stops you from living the life you want, it may be time for something more.
For more information about me, my clinics, or the amnio-viscosupplementation study, visit www.upmcnj.com, or call 844-600-7246 or 732-873-6868.