“There’s nothing bad that’s going to happen with one shot or even a few shots,” Felson adds. “People should be reassured. They shouldn’t avoid getting an effective treatment.”
Wise use is crucial
The findings bolster the approach orthopedic specialists already take in handing out cortisone shots to treat knee arthritis, Leber says.
“If someone already has a ton of damage to the cartilage in their knee, a lot of arthritis, then we don’t worry as much about using a steroid to help with pain control because they already have a lot of arthritis in the knee,” Leber notes. “Damaging it a touch more just to give them good pain control is a very minor thing. It’s not as risky.
“In someone who’s young, in their 20s to 40s, who has very little cartilage damage but has pain, we try to use it sparingly,” she continues. “Would you use them on occasion in a young person? Yes. That’s only as a one-time thing. You don’t want to use it repetitively”.
“Steroid is bad for cartilage, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for every patient,” Leber concludes. “It’s a case-by-case situation.”
Regardless, you wouldn’t expect any patient to receive frequent cortisone injections, whatever their condition, Dr. Jeffrey Schildhorn, an orthopedic surgeon with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City adds.
“If you give someone a shot in January and they come back in April saying they want another one, and they come back in August and want another one, how well are they working?” Schildhorn questions. “They’re not working, if you’re only getting two or three months of relief.”
Knee arthritis can affect people of all ages and affects everyone differently. Although it may be painful and impact your movement, there are several treatments that can lessen the severity of your symptoms. Before making any final decisions on treatments, consult with your doctor. He or she can evaluate you and help you determine which treatment is right for you.