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Geniculate artery embolization (GAE) is a minimally-invasive procedure to reduce knee pain for patients with osteoarthritis (OA). GAE is performed through a small puncture in the groin. The catheter is positioned in the arteries around the knee, tiny particles can be injected that block the capillaries around the lining of the knee, a technique called embolization.  The procedure generally takes between 45 and 90 minutes, and the patient is able to go home the same day.

GAE blocks the blood flow in the areas around the knee that are inflamed.  By blocking these arteries, there is a reduction in the amount of inflammation associated with osteoarthritis, a process that can help or eliminate the associated knee pain.  The risk of the procedure is small, mostly the accidental injection of particles into arteries not supplying the lining of the knee.

At present, this procedure remains investigational. In a recent prospective, multi-center trial, of which UNC was a participant, 20 patients with severe knee pain from OA were treated with GAE.  The study patients were found to have less pain and increased range of motion after the procedure. A larger study was performed in Asia that showed success rates exceeding 80%, and the results remained durable up to 4 years after the procedure.

While further research is needed, this initial trial shows the promise this technique holds for patients with debilitating knee pain who are not ready or willing to undergo knee replacement surgery.  While it does not treat the underlying disease, evidence so far shows that this may be an effective way to manage the symptoms.



Above, L to R: 1) Knee with osteoarthritis; 2) Arteries to the inflamed knee joint being treated with a small catheter; 3) Post-procedure reduced inflammation to the joint

To hear a detailed description of the GAE surgical procedure, click here.