BackTable / MSK / Podcast / Episode #22
Genicular Nerve Ablation
with Dr. John Smirniotopoulos
In this episode, host Dr. Michael Barazza interviews Dr. John Smirniotopoulos about genicular nerve ablation, an innovative treatment option for the management of osteoarthritis.
BackTable, LLC (Producer). (2023, July 19). Ep. 22 – Genicular Nerve Ablation [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.backtable.com
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Dr. John Smirniotopoulos
Dr. John Smirniotopoulos is an assistant professor of clinical radiology in the IR department at MedStar Georgetown University and MedStar Washington Hospital Center in DC.
Dr. Michael Barraza
Dr. Michael Barraza is a practicing interventional radiologist (and all around great guy) with Radiology Associates in Baton Rouge, LA.
Dr. John Smirniotopoulos is an assistant professor of clinical radiology in the IR department at MedStar Georgetown University and MedStar Washington Hospital Center in DC. He developed the idea of genicular nerve ablation after consulting with his orthopedic colleagues at Georgetown about various pain interventions. He then formulated a treatment algorithm that begins with a conservative approach, using a nerve block for ablation. If the initial response is limited, a second ablation can be performed within six months. However, if the patient experiences only a short-term response, genicular artery embolization may be considered.
Genicular nerve ablation proves to be a valuable therapy for patients who are not yet ready for knee replacements or need to postpone the procedure due to factors like high BMI or recent organ transplant. The therapy uses fluoroscopy or ultrasound to target four trunks of nerves, including the superomedial genicular, superolateral, inferomedial, and the suprapatellar nerves. The procedure is done under conscious sedation, and Dr. Smirniotopoulos aims for 50% pain reduction with his patients which is usually reached at six weeks.
Dr. Smirniotopoulos and his team recently conducted a study to evaluate the outcomes of genicular nerve ablation. The results indicated a significant reduction in both the WOMAC score, which measures pain and functionality, and the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) score, which is a subjective measure of pain. Surprisingly, they discovered that age over 50 was the biggest predictor of positive outcomes, contrary to their initial expectation that BMI would play a more significant role. They attribute this finding to a higher prevalence of advanced OA in the older age group. Additionally, patients under 50 may have more sports-related injuries such as meniscal tears, leading them to return to high-intensity activities sooner than older patients. Dr. Smirniotopoulos has also seen success in performing nerve ablation in the hip, shoulder, SI, and intervertebral joints. This wide application of the procedure makes it a valuable and versatile treatment option for patients.
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