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Post-Traumatic Arthritis 101: Your Questions Answered

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

What is post-traumatic arthritis?

Post-traumatic arthritis (PTA) is a type of osteoarthritis that occurs as a result of injury to a joint. Individuals who suffer suffer from PTA may have experienced a sports injury, fall, car accident, or some other form of trauma. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this form of arthritis “causes about 12% of osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, and ankle.” Post-traumatic arthritis affects approximately 5.6 million people in the U.S.

Post-traumatic arthritis is just one reason why sports medicine physicians urge athletes to follow appropriate health and safety guidelines. The price of an injury isn’t necessarily paid in full during the initial recovery. In many cases, a torn ACL or rotator cuff injury can resurface decades later in the form of post-traumatic arthritis.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

    • Joint pain, swelling, stiffness, tenderness
    • Instability in the joint (a knee that frequently “gives out,” for example)
    • Deformity in the joint
    • Fluid build-up in the joint

How is post-traumatic arthritis diagnosed?

Arthritis can only be diagnosed by a physician. If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, see a doctor for an evaluation. During the evaluation, your health care provider may ask you about past injuries, your pain/discomfort, as well as your family medical history. Strength and mobility tests may be performed at this time. Finally, your doctor may order some diagnostic imaging tests, such as x-ray, CT scan, or MRI. Blood lab testing may also be useful in some cases.

What treatments are available?

While there is no “cure” for post-traumatic arthritis, symptoms may be alleviated through weight loss, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cortisone injections, and other therapies.

If nonsurgical care fails to provide sufficient improvement, your physician may recommend total joint replacement surgery for the affected joint. Many patients find substantial relief through joint replacement surgery, allowing them to return to their normal lifestyle with significantly reduced pain.

Schedule With a Houston Orthopedic Doctor

To learn more about your options in treating post-traumatic arthritis, schedule an appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. Call (713) 756-5546 today.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.