Abstract

The treatment of osteoarthritis includes a wide spectrum of approaches. This article reviews current practices in medical, pharmaceutical and surgical treatment with a perspective toward the immediate, distant and far distant future. At present, with the exception of surgery, all other treatments are palliative. That is to say that many of these treatments relieve pain and increase function. However, on the basis of medical evidence, these treatments do not change the course of the disease. Surgical interventions, including joint replacement and osteotomy, reverse the progress of osteoarthritis and provide long-term improved function and pain relief for specific joints. The goal of treating osteoarthritis is to arrest and reverse its progress regionally or globally through biologic methodology. Meaningful progress for biologic intervention accumulates annually. Pluripotent mesenchymal cells can be coaxed into chondrocytes or stem cells. Cytokines, growth factors, chemokines, protease inhibitors, kinases, apoptosis, mechanics, and genetics are increasingly recognized to play key roles in the control of the articular cartilage behavior. Knowledge of their roles and relationships advance toward solutions related to osteoarthritis. In the future, biologic control may be harnessed to regrow joints or limbs, as currently occurs naturally in newts and salamanders. Fortunately, until then we have ever improving joint replacement.

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