- Osteoarthritis pain often requires surgery
- The lipofilling technique, which involves removing fatty tissue to “oil” the diseased joint, is much less invasive.
- In an experiment on osteoarthritis of the fingers, it showed a very positive effect on pain
The pain caused by finger osteoarthritis could be easily relieved by non-invasive surgery. This shows the follow-up of 18 German patients who benefited from the so-called “lipofilling” technique, the results of which were published in the current issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgery.
Osteoarthritis is a common but very disabling, even disabling, condition that results primarily in pain that can only be relieved through surgery. However, these major operations, which sometimes radically change the affected joint, are associated with a long rehabilitation period and a risk of complications. Hence the interest in so-called “minimally invasive” procedures such as lipofilling.
Inject fat cells into the joint
Why is ? Lipofilling is a technique that consists in removing the patient’s adipose tissue (fat) by liposuction on a part of the body where it is very present, such as the thigh or hip. This tissue, reduced to tiny fat cells, is then reinjected into the treated joint to restore mobility. In the treatment of osteoarthritis of the fingers, which is the subject of this study, it is then sufficient to immobilize the joint with a splint and prescribe painkillers for the patient for a week. Then forget about the pain of arthrosis and regain the preventive power of your fingers!
By analyzing the results of follow-up at 44 months for 18 patients (representing 25 treated joints), the researchers observed “a clear, very significant improvement” in their pain score: it had decreased from 6 out of 10 before treatment to 0.5 out of 10 ! “We believe that pain reduction is the most important outcome for our patients and has the greatest effect,” emphasizes Dr. Meyer-Marcotty, who is at the origin of this fat transfer experiment to treat osteoarthritis of the fingers.
An increase in grip strength
But aside from its effect on pain, this technique also allowed treated patients to double their finger grip strength, from a median of 4 pounds before the procedure to 10 pounds after lipofilling.
This technique of fat transfer is increasingly used in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and several studies show the potential of stem cells present in adipose tissue to regenerate the tissues of arthritic joints. This technique offers another advantage: “Since lipofilling is a non-destructive procedure, joint surgery can still be performed if necessary,” emphasizes Dr. Meyer-Marcotty.