In the small Boston University study, 8% of those who received one to three corticosteroid injections into a knee or hip experienced adverse events that were evident in medical imaging, according to the article published in the journal Radiology.
What is an adverse event? In pharmacology, an adverse event is, "any unexpected or dangerous reaction to a drug or a vaccine," according to MedicineNet Editor-in-Chief William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR.
Adverse events reported in the study included progression of osteoarthritis, death of bone tissue (osteonecrosis), joint destruction with bone loss, and subchondral insufficiency fracture, which is a type of stress fracture that occurs under cartilage.
The results echo those of another study recently published in the journal Skeletal Radiology. That study found patients who had steroid injections in the hip were more likely to experience osteoarthritis progression and osteonecrosis 3 to 12 months later compared to controls.
What Is Osteoarthritis?Osteoarthritis is a painful type of arthritis associated with the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage from one or more joints, Dr. Shiel said. Cartilage is the tissue that acts as a cushion between the bones of the joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease.
Doctors frequently inject corticosteroids into inflamed joints of people who suffer from osteoarthritis. The treatment can rapidly decrease pain and restore function, Dr. Shiel said. However, repeated injections can be harmful to tissues and bones, so corticosteroid injections are reserved for patients with more severe symptoms.