If you’re considering a steroid injection for hip or knee pain, be aware that it may do more harm than good, according to a study from Boston University in the journal Radiology.
Intra-articular (directly into the joint) injections of corticosteroids are commonly administered to people with osteoarthritis, but they can lead to complications such as accelerated arthritis progression and bone destruction. In the new study, of 459 patients with osteoarthritis who received one to three such injections to a hip or knee in 2018, 8 percent went on to have an adverse joint event (10 percent in the hip group; 4 percent in the knee group)—most commonly an accelerated narrowing of the joint space, which can hasten the need for joint replacement surgery.
It’s not clear, however, whether the injections caused the joint problems or simply preceded them.
This is not the first study to show potential harm from the injections: For instance, a 2017 clinical trial of 140 people, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that participants who received intra-articular corticosteroid injections for knee osteoarthritis every three months for two years lost twice as much cartilage as those who received saline injections—plus, there was no difference in pain severity between the groups.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Steroid Shots: Benefits and Risks.