Post-Traumatic Arthritis | Tampa General Hospital

Post-Traumatic Arthritis 

Post-traumatic arthritis is a common form of osteoarthritis that occurs due to physical injury. Regular arthritis develops gradually without an apparent outside reason, whereas post-traumatic arthritis develops as a result of trauma. Any injury to any joint can lead to post-traumatic arthritis, which makes up about 12% of the cases of osteoarthritis (thinning or wearing down of cartilage).  

Causes of Post-Traumatic Arthritis 

A physical injury to any joint that results in wearing or deterioration can cause post-traumatic arthritis. Such injuries can damage the cartilage and/or the bone, changing the mechanics of the joint and making it wear out more quickly.  

Examples of injuries that cause post-traumatic arthritis include: 

  • Sports injuries 
  • Automobile accidents 
  • Falls 
  • Work-related injuries 

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Arthritis 

Signs and symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis can include: 

  • Joint pain 
  • Swelling 
  • Fluid accumulation in the joint 
  • Decreased tolerance for walking, playing sports, using stairs and other activities that stress the joint 

Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Arthritis 

In order to evaluate joint pain and diagnose post-traumatic arthritis, doctors will ask a patient about the history of the problem, including the extent of the injury, how and when the joint bothers them, what makes the pain better and what makes it worse. Doctors may also ask about the patient’s general medical history. Other tests and exams can also be done to reach an accurate diagnosis of post-traumatic arthritis, including: 

  • A physical exam
  • X-ray imaging  
  • A CT scan 
  • An MRI scan  
  • Blood tests 

Treatments for Post-Traumatic Arthritis 

While the effects of arthritis typically cannot be reversed, there are a number of treatment options available to alleviate symptoms, make patients more comfortable and make the affected joint more functional.  

Treatment can include: 

  • Weight loss 
  • Low-impact exercise 
  • Strengthening of the muscles surrounding the joint 
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)  
  • Injections of cortisone or Hylamers 

If these measures in treating pain and restoring function prove to be ineffective, surgical treatment may be the best course of action. Surgical treatment may include debriding, reconstructing or replacing the worn out joint surfaces.