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An all too common practice today is when the surgeon looks at your X-ray, tells you that you have “Bone on Bone “ and that you need a Total Joint Replacement. There is little discussion of the risks and the potential of an unsatisfactory result. The patient looks for pain relief but doesn’t really appreciate why a joint replacement may be indicated or whether there may be other options for delaying or even avoiding a joint replacement; particularly in Grades two and three osteoarthritis.

During my orthopedic training (readers of this Blog are aware I was a joint replacement surgeon for 37 years before “graduating” into interventional orthopedics) I was made aware that the X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis included joint space narrowing, subchondral sclerosis and osteophyte formation. The lay public refers to these observations as “bone on bone” and spurs. The general connotation is that these findings are consistent with Degenerative Arthritis. The synonym is Hypertrophic Osteoarthritis. The other general category of arthritis is Inflammatory and the most frequent category is Rheumatoid Arthritis. The synonym for Inflammatory Arthritis is Atrophic Arthritis in which there is joint space narrowing with osteoporotic adjacent bone changes (joint space narrowing without spurs or thickening of subchondral bone). There is yet another presentation on X-ray of Degenerative Arthritis that is not inflammatory but shares the atrophic nature of bony change. These occur in patients experiencing systemic osteoporosis who undergo degenerative changes. The interesting observation of the latter category is these subjects don’t hurt until very late into the disease process.

In trying to understand what causes the pain in degenerative arthritis, I haven’t lost sight of the inflammatory mature of the bioimmune process inside the joint but I am recently reminded of the shock absorbing and structural support nature of the bone supporting the cartilage. Is the pain generator the bone or the inflammation within the joint? If there is still a joint space but hypertrophic (sclerotic) subchondral bone, will the subchondroplasty alter the progression of osteoarthritis and delay or postpone a joint replacement? If there is X-ray evidence of “Bone on Bone”, should a bone marrow aspirate concentrate intervention be coupled with the subchondroplasty? If there is atrophic arthritis of a degenerative nature, should treatment be limited to an intraarticular intervention alone? Incidentally, Atrophic Arthritis of a degenerative nature is determined after a C-reactive protein and Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate serum test excludes inflammatory systemic disease.

What is causing your joint pain and what might be done to delay or perhaps avoid a joint replacement while returning you to a more active life? Call and make an appointment so I may assess you, review images and advance an evidence-based recommendation:

847 390 7666

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