Crystal Ball Technology
Most of us are familiar with arthroscopic surgery. This procedure uses tiny cameras and tools to explore and/or repair joints. The word root “arthro-“ actually means joint. Therefore, virtually any joint in the body, such as hip, elbow and knee, can be helped with the use of arthroscopy. The knee is probably the one most people think of when they hear “arthroscopy”, and an estimated one million people in the U.S. are expected to have the procedure performed this year alone.
Synovial fluid is located in each of our joints. This fluid has been used in the past to determine causes or severity of conditions involving those joints. A small sample is taken of the fluid and sent to a lab for analysis. It can be used to test for several disorders, but for our purposes, let’s concentrate on inflammation and degenerative diseases. Typical testing checks the physical appearance of the fluid, including color and clarity. The chemical composition is analyzed. Synovial fluid is comprised of glucose, protein and uric acid. Fluctuations in any of one of these components will signify certain issues are present. For example, lower than expected glucose levels would indicate problems with inflammation or infection.
Researchers have now discovered that these same synovial fluid biomarkers can be an indicator for predicting postoperative outcomes. There are several factors, such as age and duration of symptoms, which were included, along with the biomarker data, to help determine potential results. In other words, physicians would be able to tell how a person will respond after surgery and how successful the procedure will be for each patient.
Much of the terminology and chemical names are meaningless to a non-scientist, but one of the items looked at was T-cell response. T-cells may sound familiar to most as they are mentioned frequently in regards to cancer. They are part of the immune response system, and in cases of infection and inflammation, they are stimulated to respond in an effort to slow down or stop certain processes.
In the near future, surgeons may be able to provide patients with a fairly accurate prognosis regarding their recovery time and expectations after surgery using this technology, much like a prognostic crystal ball.
If you or someone you know is experiencing knee pain or discomfort, please contact us to set up a consultation.