Medical Minute 2-28: Motor Oil for Your Joints

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Ion Hartunian used to train for triathlons. Today, he's just happy to go for a leisurely ride.

"That bike was collecting dust in my closet for two years. I could not ride it at all," said Ion Hartunian.

Ion has osteo-arthritis in both hips. Even simple activities like working at his computer were out of the question.

"I couldn't sit at the computer for longer than 20 or 30 minutes without getting on the floor and having to stretch," he said.

The pain was so bad doctors scheduled Ion for surgery. But he canceled the procedure after trying this injection -- called synvisc. it's made from the comb of a rooster!

"The proteins that are made out of that are similar to the proteins made in joint fluid," said Joseph Robinson, M.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

In a 15-minute procedure, doctors take x-rays of the patient -- infusing a dye to show them that the needle is in the arthritic joint. Then, they inject the gel directly in that spot. It cushions and lubricates the area -- just like real cartilage.

"You can think of it kind of like motor oil for your joints."

It's typically injected every six months. It's currently being used for knees and hips but can potentially be placed in any joint. A recent study showed 75% of patients were able to delay knee replacement surgery after having the treatment. Doctors say that's a big benefit for younger patients.

"Just like a car will wear out after a certain number of years, implants have a lifespan."

At 50 years old -- the injection was a welcome option for ion.

"It just got me back to a normal lifestyle."

Now, he can sit and work for hours at a time or ride around town.

"Quitting is not an option for me. I want to be as active as possible and keep doing everything that I want to do."

And he can -- without pain slowing him down.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.


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