Objectives To explore changes in the number of steroid hormone receptor positive cells in synovial tissue (ST) after intra-articular glucocorticoid injection, to correlate these changes with changes in clinical variables, and to evaluate whether the number of steroid hormone receptor positive cells predicted the clinical response to glucocorticoid injection.
Methods Fourteen patients with persistent knee arthritis despite at least two previous injections in an outpatient setting received an intra-articular injection with glucocorticoids, followed by 3 days of admission with bed rest. Clinical efficacy was assessed at 6 and 12 weeks. ST biopsies were performed 2 weeks before and 12 weeks after the injection. The presence of different cell types (T cells, macrophages, fibroblast-like synoviocytes) and numbers of glucocorticoid, androgen and oestrogen α and β receptor positive cells were evaluated by histochemistry.
Results Patients showed, despite previous failures, good clinical response to glucocorticoid injection, with significant improvement in erythrocyte sedimentation rate, visual analogue scale (VAS) for pain, and joint disability score. The number of steroid hormone receptor positive cells decreased markedly (p<0.05 for all four receptors). The decrease in oestrogen receptor α positive cells correlated significantly with the improvement in VAS for pain and joint disability score. The number of glucocorticoid, androgen and oestrogen α and β receptor positive cells before injection did not predict the effect of treatment.
Conclusions Intra-articular glucocorticoid injections followed by bed rest for persistent arthritis are clinically effective and significantly decrease the number of steroid hormone receptor positive cells in ST. The relevance of the latter needs further study.
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Funding This project was financially supported by the Rheumatology Grant 2009 awarded by the Dutch Rheumatology Society (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Reumatologie).
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Medical ethics committee of UMC Utrecht.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.