Delaware News

UA Arthritis Center uses $3.4 million grant to study knees

It’s one of the most common diseases people have as they age, but medical researchers have long struggled to find out how to help – other than surgery.

The problem? Osteoarthritis of the knee, the #1 reason people have expensive knee replacement surgeries.

Researchers at the University of Arizona Arthritis Center are now using a recently awarded $3.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to better understand rapid knee deterioration.

“I hope that in the future we can prevent more people from needing knee replacement surgery,” said Dr. C. Kent Kwoh, director of the UA Arthritis Center. “It’s the only treatment we have right now.”

More than 32 million people nationwide suffer from osteoarthritis, and the knees are one of the most affected areas, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Around 800,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed each year, making it the most common surgery performed at a rate of 223 per 100,000 – next in line being coronary angioplasty at 170 per 100,000.

Kwoh will lead the five-year study, which will include 10,000 participating patients between the ages of 45 and 90. Researchers from 10 other participating universities in the United States, as well as Sweden and Australia are participating. Researchers will use X-rays to identify unique aspects of knee structure to help predict who will experience rapid knee deterioration.

A person’s gender, race, weight, and history of knee injuries and knee operations can all come into play.

Through previous research on about 4,800 patients, Kwoh said, they’ve determined that knee osteoarthritis only progresses rapidly about 10 to 15 percent of the time.

Women are more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis, and one reason could be that they have less joint space in their knees and less cartilage thickness overall.

In general, says Kwoh, there are three things he recommends for healthy knees: staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding knee injuries.

Contact journalist Patty Machelor at 520-235-0308 or


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