Side Effects of Steroids: Joint Replacement Infections AGAIN…

I’ve blogged quite a bit on the inconvenient truth that while steroid medications are powerful anti-inflammatories that are commonly used without much medical thought, they’re really bad for your body. As one example, a prior highlighted study had shown that getting a hip steroid shot increases the likelihood that a hip replacement surgery will fail and/or the patient will get a nasty post-op infection. Now a new study found joint replacement infection to be one of the side effects of steroids prescribed orally as well.

Steroids in the Water Supply

I see it every day in clinical practice: doctors use high-dose steroids like they’re sprinkling holy water. Got back pain? Let’s get you some steroid pills. How about a sore knee or hip? Let’s inject some steroids. In fact, I just spoke to a patient on Tuesday of this week about the fact that a local physician had injected his hip with steroids. He really had no idea that this choice not only endangered the joint through additional damage caused by the medications but also increased his risk for a hip replacement failure or infection. So before we move on to the new study, let’s review a few prior posts on the side effects of steroids and just how bad steroids can be for you:

Learn More About Regenexx® Procedures
Request a digital booklet and more information to learn about alternatives to orthopedic surgery and the Regenexx patient experience.
We do not sell, or share your information to third party vendors. By submitting the form you agree that you've read and consent to our Privacy Policy.

The New Study: Side Effects of Steroids Used Orally

The new research looked at the insurance claims of more than two thousand knee, hip, and shoulder joint replacement patients in the U.S. They then also examined if certain medications had any impact on whether a postoperative joint infection was reported. Not surprisingly, patients who were on oral-steroid medications were about 60% more likely to get an infected joint. Medications for gout were also a culprit (allopurinol).

Why does this happen? It’s pretty simple. Steroids work by powerfully suppressing inflammation. While we all think of inflammation as a bad guy, it’s also how we heal and fight infection. So any drug that suppresses inflammation will increase the likelihood of an infection. Given that a joint replacement infection is nasty, where the patient must be on IV antibiotics and often has to have the artificial joint removed and replaced, it’s amazing that more physicians haven’t gotten the memo on steroids.

The upshot? The side effects of steroids are nasty. However, if you have joint pain, you’ll get offered steroid shots or pills—it’s almost a given. Given that it likely will hurt your chances of responding to a stem cell procedure or, at the least, increase the likelihood of a post-op infection, if you need a joint replacement, “just say no” to drugs!

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

If you have questions or comments about this blog post, please email us at [email protected]

NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.