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Study Combining Two Standard Arthritis Treatments Has Good Results

(New York, N.Y. November 1, 2004). The nagging pain and impaired mobility caused by knee arthritis can have a real impact on quality of life. Now patients participating in a study at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan are getting some relief. The study, conducted by Dr. Geoffrey Westrich since the beginning of the year, combines two standard treatments for knee arthritis that are traditionally used separately. Hyalgan, an FDA-approved substance used to relieve pain, is injected into the knee following arthroscopic surgery. A sterile mixture derived from rooster combs, Hyalgan is similar to the joint fluid in normal knees.

Fifty-four year-old George Benjez of King Park, Long Island, says a bad knee put a crimp in his active lifestyle. "It was so annoying, I had to do something," he says. Dr. Westrich ordered an x-ray and MRI, which showed Mr. Benjez had a torn meniscal cartilage and osteoarthritis in his left knee. After the back-to-back treatments, he is now pain-free and playing golf again.

"Overall, we've found that the majority of patients receiving arthroscopic surgery and Hyalgan got relief from their pain," said Dr. Westrich. The ideal candidate for the study is someone with a painful knee for whom arthroscopic surgery has been recommended for a torn cartilage. Arthroscopy entails tiny incisions and a video camera to see inside the knee. Before enrolling in the study, patients receive an x-ray and MRI to confirm they have a torn meniscal cartilage and mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that tends to get worse as time goes on. People experiencing knee pain due to rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, are not candidates for the study.

Participants are divided into two groups. One group has the operation followed by three injections of Hyalgan. Patients receive one injection immediately after surgery, one within two weeks of the procedure and the last one within three weeks of the operation. Patients are able to leave the hospital the day of the operation and go to physical therapy for several weeks. The other group receives arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn cartilage, but does not receive Hyalgan following the operation.

Osteoarthritis is a leading cause 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. For the most part, knee arthritis affects middle-aged and older adults. It can range from 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, the joint tends to deteriorate further, causing more problems for patients."

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