Liposuction typically is used to flatten your stomach or shape up your booty, but a new study argues that it could also help people suffering from arthritis of the fingers.
Injections of body fat into aching, arthritic finger joints appear to produce significant and lasting improvements in hand function and a decrease in pain, German researchers report in the May issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
How does liposuction help arthritic fingers?
People who underwent the experimental procedure started with pain levels of 6 points on a 10-point scale, but three to four years later reported their finger arthritis pain at a median 0.5 points, according to results from their small-scale pilot study. Median means half had higher pain levels, half lower.
“That was for us the most striking result, if you manage to decrease the pain,” says lead researcher Dr. Max Meyer-Marcotty, a plastic surgeon with the Lüedenscheid Clinic in Germany. “To go from level 6 to 0.5 even after almost four years is really kind of amazing.”
Finger osteoarthritis occurs as a result of normal wear and tear. The cartilage in finger joints breaks down and wears away over time, allowing the ends of bones to rub together, causing pain and stiffness.
Meyer-Marcotty and his colleagues were the first to attempt this nonsurgical procedure, which they started offering in 2014.
They use liposuction to draw fat from the patient’s thighs or buttocks, and then spin it in a centrifuge to separate the pure fat from water, oil and blood that’s also in the sample.
Tiny amounts of fat are then injected into the patient’s aching finger joints, using X-ray monitors to make sure the syringe gets into the proper places, Meyer-Marcotty shares. The procedure is called lipofilling.
“There’s no stitching, no wound closure, nothing like that,” he says. “We put a Band-Aid on it, and give it a rest for one week in a splint. Then the patient is counseled to remove the splint and start