GAE—Minimally Invasive Alternative to Surgery
Genicular artery embolization (GAE) is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure used to treat knee pain, particularly in patients with osteoarthritis (OA) where conservative treatments such as knee injections or anti-inflammatory medications have not provided adequate relief. Statistically, osteoarthritis (OA) is the leading cause of chronic pain and disability in older people in the US — approximately 37% of Americans over the age of 60 experience chronic pain from OA in the knee. GAE is an alternative treatment option for OA that has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for the chronic pain of early and intermediate osteoarthritis.
The goal of GAE is to reduce pain and improve the overall function of the knee joint by decreasing the blood flow to the lining of the knee, reducing the amount of inflammation and knee pain. Two recent studies in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology in 2020 and 2021 reported significant relief for patients with chronic knee pain at six months and one-year post-GAE and a significant reduction in NSAID and opioid use, respectively. Although genicular artery embolization does not provide a cure for osteoarthritis, it relieves knee pain for a minimum of 1-3 years, compared to 2-3 months from a cortisone shot or other joint injection.
Benefits of Genicular Artery Embolization
Patients undergoing GAE can experience a range of benefits, including:
- No hospital stay
- Same day procedure
- Fewer complications
- Short recovery time
- Improved knee function and range of motion
- Reduced knee pain and inflammation
- Symptom improvement for 1 to 3 years
Candidates for Genicular Artery Embolization
The following patients are considered good candidates for GAE:
- Age: 40+ years
- Moderate to severe knee pain
- Mild to moderate OA on X-ray
- Local knee tenderness
- Stiffness in knees
- Repeated conservative treatment (NSAIDS/PT/joint injection) without relief
How to Prepare for Genicular Artery Embolization
Before undergoing GAE, patients should expect the following:
- Consultation with a specialist to go over your medical history and previous surgeries
- Receive imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to better visualize the blood vessels in your knee
- Adjust or temporarily discontinue certain medications before the procedure, especially blood-thinning medications like aspirin
- Follow fasting instructions for a certain period of time before the procedure
- Arrange for someone to drive you before and after the procedure
- Follow any specific pre-procedure instructions provided by your specialist
How Does GAE Work?
Genicular artery embolization is performed using moderate sedation as an outpatient procedure by an interventional radiologist, a physician specially trained in minimally invasive treatments utilizing image guidance to diagnose and treat diseases. The physician inserts a small catheter (a thin hollow tube) into the artery of the patient’s upper thigh and, with live X-ray guidance, advances the catheter in the arteries to the areas of inflammation. Tiny particles are injected through the catheter into these arteries, reducing the blood supply. This reduces the factors creating the inflammation and pain associated with OA. The procedure generally takes 1-2 hours.
What to Expect After Genicular Artery Embolization
Patients often enjoy significant relief from knee pain, swelling, and stiffness as a result of the procedure, leading to improved quality of life and increased mobility. Pain relief typically begins to occur after two weeks, as the inflammation in the knee lining is reduced, relieving the knee pain associated with osteoarthritis.
GAE Frequently Asked Questions
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can affect the many tissues of the joint. It is by far the most common form of arthritis, affecting more than 32.5 million adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OA is caused by trauma or age-related wear and tear on the joints over time and is most likely to affect weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hip, lower spine or big toe. Injury or overuse, such as knee bending and repetitive stress on a joint, can damage a joint and increase the risk of OA in that joint. The risk of developing OA increases with age and is most common from middle age onward.
Genicular artery embolization (GAE) is an effective minimally-invasive treatment that reduces knee pain for patients with osteoarthritis. It decreases the blood flow to the lining of the knee, relieving patients from knee pain and inflammation without the need for surgery.
Genicular artery embolization does not provide a permanent cure for osteoarthritis, but it relieves knee pain for a minimum of 1-3 years, which is longer pain relief than receiving a cortisone shot every 2-3 months.
Our Vascular Specialists
American Endovascular is honored to have associations with top-tier vascular specialists in New York and New Jersey. Our affiliated physicians at our vascular centers are widely acknowledged as pioneers and frontrunners in the fields of vascular and interventional radiology. They consistently deliver exceptional, compassionate care to our patients who are dealing with knee pain associated with osteoarthritis.
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