Low-dose Radiation Therapy for Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a medical condition characterized by excess joint inflammation, causing pain and decreased mobility.

In this video, we explore how low-dose radiation therapy offers a non-invasive solution for arthritis.

Read the full video transcript below:

This video is an overview of the use of low dose radiation in arthritis. 

Osteoarthritis is a common medical condition that affects one in seven American adults. This condition is caused by excess joint inflammation and can cause pain and decreased mobility. Historically, this condition was managed with oral medications. However, these medicines have side effects and can be expensive. 

Low dose radiation therapy or LDRT for short, is x-ray treatment. Unlike most arthritis treatments, which come in the form of a pill, LDRT is an invisible beam, just like getting an x-ray. There's no touching, cutting, or pain.

Low dose x-rays are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects by slowing down the immune response and reducing the activity of inflammatory cells in the affected joints. It may also impact the production of cytokines, which are chemicals in our body that play a role in inflammation. 

LDRT is delivered in a radiation oncologist's office or hospital as a series of six sessions, 2 - 3 times per week. Personalized LDRT is delivered to affected joints and there's no pain during each treatment. Each session takes about 15 minutes. Treatment is outpatient, meaning patients are not admitted to the hospital. They travel back and forth from home for each treatment.

LDRT may help reduce inflammation in the treated joints leading to pain relief and improved function in most patients. By influencing the immune response, LDRT might have a disease-modifying effect in certain types of arthritis. This means the treatment can change the way a patient's immune system is triggering inflammation. 

Not all patients are good candidates for LDRT. Ideal patients for LDRT are typically over 50 years old and their arthritis has not improved with conservative therapies such as physical therapy or over-the-counter medications. LDRT is a reasonable alternative when the risk of side effects associated with alternative treatments are considered either unsafe or unappealing. 

Radiotherapy treatment for arthritis is very low dose, so it's expected that side effects will be rare. These may include fatigue or a slight worsening of arthritis pain for a short time before it improves. The specific risks related to your treatment may vary based on treatment location or other aspects of your case. We encourage you to speak with your healthcare professional about specific risks related to your case.

The use of LDRT in arthritis is not a first-line treatment and it's usually considered when other treatments have not provided sufficient relief. Its efficacy varies among individuals and not everyone responds in the same way. Some patients may require a second course of treatment for pain relief. 

The use of LDRT for arthritis is a specialized area of treatment and should be conducted by a qualified healthcare professional in a controlled clinical setting. Patients should seek treatment with a radiation oncologist familiar with the treatment, the benefits, and the risks.

This video is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your health status and specifics of your condition.


How does LDRT compare in effectiveness to traditional treatments for arthritis, such as oral medications or physical therapy, in terms of pain relief and long-term joint function?

LDRT is thought to provide significant pain relief and possibly improve long-term joint function by directly reducing inflammation at the cellular level. This contrasts with oral medications that often work systemically and may come with a broader range of side effects or require long-term use to maintain efficacy. Physical therapy, while beneficial for improving mobility and strength, may not directly address the underlying inflammation as LDRT does. However, the effectiveness of LDRT can vary among individuals, and its long-term benefits on joint function require further study to fully understand how it compares with conventional treatments.

What are the specific criteria that determine whether a patient is a good candidate for LDRT, aside from being over 50 and having unresponsive arthritis to conservative therapies?

The criteria for determining a good candidate for LDRT extend beyond age and the lack of response to conservative therapies. Other factors likely include the severity and type of arthritis, the patient's overall health and medical history, and the specific joints affected. Patients for whom the risks of traditional treatments outweigh the benefits due to side effects or contraindications might also be considered. Additionally, the patient's ability to adhere to the treatment schedule and their preference for non-invasive options could play a role in determining candidacy for LDRT.

Can LDRT be used for all types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis, or is it only effective for osteoarthritis?

While the video specifically mentions its use in osteoarthritis, the potential benefits for other types like rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis are less clear. These conditions involve different pathophysiological mechanisms, with rheumatoid arthritis being an autoimmune disease and psoriatic arthritis involving both the skin and joints. The effectiveness of LDRT in these conditions would depend on how it impacts the immune system's role in the disease process. Therefore, while LDRT may offer a novel treatment avenue for osteoarthritis, its applicability and efficacy in treating other forms of arthritis would require specific evaluation and evidence to support its use.