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Study Aims to Give Patients a Leg Up on Knee Arthritis

(New York, NY. January 9, 2004). Arthritis can have a real impact on quality of life, and a new study aims to see if combining two standard treatments for knee arthritis can give patients a leg up on the disease. People experiencing pain, stiffness and impaired function may benefit from a study that entails the injection of a substance called Hyalgan following arthroscopic surgery. Hyalgan is similar to the joint fluid found in normal knees and is used to reduce pain and improve mobility.

"Basically, we're aiming to see if combining two standard treatments works better than using each one alone," explains Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, who is conducting the study at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. "The hope is that patients will have less pain and improved knee function after the procedures. The study is for people with mild to moderate arthritis, and the goal is also to slow the progression of the disease," says Westrich, who also has an office in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

The ideal candidate for the trial is someone with a painful knee for whom arthroscopic surgery has been recommended for a torn cartilage. Arthroscopic surgery entails tiny incisions and a video camera to see inside the knee.

Study participants will be divided into two groups. One group will have the operation followed by three injections of Hyalgan, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat knee osteoarthritis. When injected into the knee joint, Hyalgan has been shown to help relieve joint pain associated with cartilage damage. Patients will receive one injection immediately after surgery, one within two weeks of surgery and the last one within three weeks of surgery. Patients are able to leave the hospital the day of the operation and go to physical therapy for several weeks.

People interested in participating in the study will have an x-ray and MRI to confirm they have a torn meniscal cartilage and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease characterized by the gradual breakdown of cartilage, the part of the joint that cushions the ends of bones. Wear and tear on a joint and the loss of cartilage cause bones to rub against each other, leading to pain and loss of movement. People experiencing knee pain due to rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, are not candidates for the study.

Osteoarthritis is one of leading causes of disability in the United States. In advanced stages, it can cause unrelenting pain and severely limit the ability to perform basic activities of daily living. Knee arthritis affects mostly middle-aged and older people. It can range very mild to very severe.

"The study aims to help people get a handle on the arthritis before it gets worse," Dr. Westrich says. "Without the proper treatment, arthritis tends to worsen as time goes on and can severely impact quality of life." Anyone who would like more information is invited to call (212) 606-1510.

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