Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation


New Research To Soothe Sore Joints
First Published: Investigator - August 2008

Despite osteoarthritis being the leading cause of joint replacement and the most common form of arthritis world-wide, very little is known about the mechanisms which lead to this degenerative condition.

Flinders researchers are hoping to change this with a study into the effects of treating the inflammation of osteoarthritis at the very early stages of the disease.

Professor Malcolm Smith, Senior Consultant at the Rheumatology Unit at the Repatriation General Hospital, and Professor Peter Roberts-Thomson, Head of Immunology at Flinders Medical Centre, are looking at whether corticosteroid injections can help the inflammatory changes which take place in the joint in the early stages of osteoarthritis, and whether this can lead to clinical improvement.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disorder of the joints caused by gradual deterioration of cartilage that results in the painful development of bony spurs and cysts, particularly in weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips.

Rather than focusing on the cause of osteoarthritis, current treatments concentrate on the symptoms, namely the pain, which is managed with pain relievers or anti-inflammatory treatments or, in later stages of the disease, joint replacement.

“At the moment treatment is limited, and patients are basically waiting for their joint to fail and have it replaced,” Professor Smith said.

Professors Smith and Roberts-Thomson hope that if they can prove that the chronic inflammation in the early stages of osteoarthritis can be reduced, progression to late stage disease requiring joint replacement surgery can be prevented.

“If we can demonstrate that the inflammation that is low grade, but known to occur in osteoarthritis, is relevant to the disease progression we can change the treatment to target inflammation rather than just treating the symptoms, which would prevent the gradual damage which is occurring to the joint,” Professor Smith said.

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