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Friday, October 29, 2021

Genicular Artery Embolization for Refractory Hemarthrosis following Total Knee Arthroplasty: Technique, Safety, Efficacy, and Patient-Reported Outcomes

Genicular Artery Embolization for Refractory Hemarthrosis following Total Knee Arthroplasty: Technique, Safety, Efficacy, and Patient-Reported Outcomes

Clinical question
Is genicular artery embolization safe and effective for treatment of refractory hemarthrosis following total knee arthroplasty?

Take away point
Targeted genicular artery embolization with spherical embolics is an effective treatment for recurrent hemarthrosis with infrequent major complications. Repeat embolization should be considered in cases of recurrence following initial therapy.

Cornman-Homonoff, J., Kishore, S.A., Waddell, B.S., Kesler, J., Mandl, L.A., Westrich, G.H., Potter, H.G., Trost, D.W., 2021. Genicular Artery Embolization for Refractory Hemarthrosis following Total Knee Arthroplasty: Technique, Safety, Efficacy, and Patient-Reported Outcomes. Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology 32, 1128–1135.. doi:10.1016/j.jvir.2021.04.020

Click here for abstract

Study design
Retrospective review of patients who underwent genicular artery embolization between 2010 – 2020 at a single institution. Inclusion of patients who had previous total knee arthroplasty and experienced recurrent refractory hemarthrosis diagnosed either by clinical exam or arthrocentesis.

Funding Source
No reported funding

Academic setting:
Department of Radiology, Division of Interventional Radiology, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Department of Radiology, Division of Interventional Radiology Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Department of Medicine and Department of Radiology and Imaging Hospital for Special Surgery.
New York, New York



Recurrent and repetitive bleeding into the joint (hemarthrosis) can be a debilitating complication of total knee arthroplasty. Current literature estimates about 0.1 – 1.6% incidence following surgery. Short term sequelae of recurrent hemarthrosis include wound breakdown, poor healing, and joint sepsis. Long term sequelae include painful swelling, joint stiffness, and impaired function. Impingement secondary to hypertrophic synovium is the most common cause. Current regimens include initial conservative measures such as immobilization and arthrocentesis. A large subset of patients will however require intervention for refectory hemarthroses with current therapies including arthroscopic and open synovectomy. The purpose of this study was to examine the technical aspects, safety, and efficacy of genicular artery embolization for postoperative hemarthrosis after total knee arthroplasty.

Pertinent demographic data was collected on patients meeting the inclusion criteria for the retrospective review as described above. All patients were initially managed conservatively and had pre-procedure MR angiography demonstrating synovial hyperemia as the causative factor. Pertinent exclusion criteria included additional causes such as presence of pseudoaneurysm formation or AV malformation. 81 patients were included with 1 patient having bilateral knee treatment during the study time frame. Patients had a mean age of 65 years, body mass index of 28 kg/m^2 with 57% male. 2.6% of patients had bleeding diathesis, 23.1% of patients were on antiplatelet therapy only, 5.1% of patients were on anticoagulation only, and 6.4% were on both. Average time from surgery to symptom onset was 14.9 months, average time from symptom onset to first embolization was 9.2 months.

Technical success was defined as angiographic resolution of synovial blush following treatment and clinical success was defined as resolution of hemarthrosis on follow up. Clinical follow up was obtained 7-14 days following embolization with additional follow up obtained in 3-month intervals via telephone interviews. All patients achieved technical success. Clinical success was identified as 56.1%, 79.3% and 85.4% following 1st, 2nd and third treatments. Complications were classified using SIR adverse event criteria, with mild, moderate, and severe complications. 12.8% (17) of treatments resulted in complications with the majority (15) considered mild. 14 of these were episodes of periarticular skin mottling, appropriately treated and responsive to conservative measures. There was a single moderate complication, an access site pseudoaneurysm, treated percutaneously with thrombin injection. The single severe complication was septic arthritis requiring surgery and prosthesis removal.


This study adds to the existing literature describing genicular artery embolization (GAE) for refractory hemarthrosis with a larger data set and patient cohort. The authors evaluated the efficacy of GAE with results comparable to the existing data, achieving clinical success of 85%, with reported rates of 80-92% in the existing series. An important aspect of the study was the focus on repeat embolization. Repeat intervention was pursued in 34% of patients with refractory hemarthrosis with increasing clinical success with each additional treatment. 7 knees in the study underwent 3 interventions. As the authors mentioned, this may lead some to believe that initial treatments may have been incomplete despite immediate technical success. However, the need for repeat embolization may also be attributed to collateralization of the hyperemic synovium with subsequent incomplete regression and continued synovial impingement causing refractory hemarthrosis. Future studies and efforts may be well suited to delineate the timing of repeat intervention in relation to initial and subsequent symptomatology.

As mentioned above, the complication rate for the series was quite low. The most common complication identified was periarticular skin mottling. All instances identified in this series were effectively managed with conservative measures alone. Additionally, the authors noted the skin mottling was less prevalent when using larger particles (greater than 300 micron). The most severe complication was septic arthritis following embolization which required prosthesis removal and replacement. Of note, the affected patient did receive arthrocentesis following embolization and prior to the joint infection, making the exact etiology unclear. Prior studies have also described singular instances of septic arthritis with all protocols requiring preprocedural antibiotics.

The limitations of this study remain its retrospective analysis and somewhat subjective quality. Throughout the 10-year course of the study, the authors acknowledge some fine tuning of the technical aspects of the procedure; including particle size selection which introduced some data heterogeneity. Additionally, most cases were performed by a single operator which may reduce its overall reproducibility and generalizability. Follow up was obtained via telephone interviews which may introduce bias from patient reviews. The patients were referred at the discretion of the treating orthopedic surgeon after variable conservative management and symptomatology. A standardized referral pattern and treatment would be beneficial for future studies.

Post Author
Ahmad Hashmi, MD
University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center,
Case Western Reserve University

Edited and formatted by @NingchengLi

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