On track to be the first-in-the-nation randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of geniculate arterial embolization to treat knee osteoarthritis is underway at the University of Minnesota Medical School Department of Radiology.

The new procedure, which was first developed in Japan, employs a catheter to inject particles to block the flow of blood to specific capillaries in the knee lining.

“Our understanding of osteoarthritis of the knee has evolved significantly over the last 20 years,” said Assistant Professor Reza Talaie, MD, the principal investigator on the study. “Once considered only a wear and tear condition, now we understand how the inflammation process leads to the recruitment of new blood vessels created to fuel a cycle of inflammation.” 

The procedure is not yet approved for widespread use in the United States but holds great promise for treating knee osteoarthritis, which affects more than 32 million adults according to the Center for Disease Control. If the procedure proves to be more effective in treating pain than other minimally-invasive treatments, it could lead to expanded study and FDA approval for widespread use. 

While the treatment is not expected to replace the need for knee replacement surgery in severe cases, it may allow patients to delay the need for surgery, thereby reducing the need for knee revisions after 10 or 15 years of use. The procedure also holds promise for reducing the need for pain medication and helping patients maintain more active, healthy lives while living with knee osteoarthritis. 

Co-Principal Investigators

Jafar Golzarian, MD, Director, Interventional Radiology
Patrick Horst, MD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery
Bradley Nelson, MD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery
Alexander Clayton, MD, Resident, Department of Radiology
Jutta Ellerman, MD, Musculoskeletal Radiology 

The study team, which is currently recruiting study participants, represents one of many research initiatives by the Intervention Radiology Division. The division has a leading reputation in the country, according to Professor Jafar Golzarian, MD, director of the IR Division, which has published 30 articles in peer-reviewed journals in 2020.

“Embolization is one of our main topics of interest as a radiology department,” said Dr. Golzarian, who secured an industry grant to support the study. “Each application is unique; however, the concept is the same. We can now precisely stop the supply of blood to tumors, aneurysms, inflammation and in doing so, we effectively treat conditions in a minimally-invasive way.”