Arthritis Research Canada scientist Dr. Jolanda Cibere has secured a grant to conduct research that could shed light on a major potential cause of osteoarthritis (OA) – a disease that currently impacts more than 4.6 million Canadians and is directly connected to rising rates of costly hip replacements.
The Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) grant, for $531,674 over three years, will allow Cibere to specifically study the effects of femoroacetabular impingement or FAI (also called hip impingement) – a bony bump that leads to abnormal contact between the ball and socket of the joint – and physical activity on cartilage damage and the development of OA.
“Well over 100,000 hip and knee replacements are performed annually in Canada and 90 per cent of hip replacements are due to osteoarthritis. It is thought that impingement is a major cause of hip osteoarthritis,” Cibere said. “We need to gain a better understanding of what causes hip osteoarthritis so we can prevent it. What are the risk factors? How big of a risk factor is hip impingement?”
Cibere’s research will be the first population-based study of hip impingement using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and contrast-enhanced MRI of cartilage. The latter MRI technique can detect subtle deterioration in the cartilage even before MRI changes are seen. The study is unique because it includes people who have been randomly selected from the population and thus, the results can be applied to the general population. This is unlike past studies, many of which have used volunteer samples of patients.
“Hip impingement causes parts of the joint to rub together in an abnormal way that, over time, can cause damage,” Cibere said. “The MRI will allow us to look at all the tissues in the joint – cartilage, fluid, bones and more to determine whether there has been any progression in that damage.”
Cibere’s study is a continuation of the IMPAKT-HiP (Investigations of Mobility, Physical Activity and Knowledge Translation in Hip Pain) study and will build on the connection between hip impingement, physical activity and OA. Cibere was the lead investigator for one of the IMPAKT-HiP sub-projects where she obtained baseline MRI from 182 participants (between the ages of 20 and 49) with and without hip impingement and with and without hip pain. Cibere will re-evaluate this same group of participants six years after baseline as part of her study.
According to Cibere, osteoarthritis is the most common form of hip arthritis and puts great strain on the health care system. The problem with hip impingement is that it occurs in young adults and can lead to pain, hip osteoarthritis and hip surgery at a younger age.
If the study reveals that hip impingement and certain physical activities are risk factors for OA, health care professionals can focus on preventing the disease and the need for costly hip replacement surgeries.
“Osteoarthritis is such a big problem globally,” Cibere said. “This research holds the potential to reduce the burden and health care costs of this disease in Canada and around the world.”
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