November 12, 2013 8:47 pm
Updated: November 12, 2013 9:32 pm

Researchers use asthma drug to treat elbow injuries


CALGARY- Grace Selinger fractured her elbow last September.

“When I fell, it was sort of like slow motion. I knew I was falling, so I had to pick what I was going to fall on and I picked my arm,” Selinger remembers.

The 57-year-old Calgary woman spent six weeks with her elbow immobilized at a 90 degree angle, but after the cast came off her range of motion was limited.

“It hasn’t gone back to normal yet,” she says. “My arm is having a hard to time going straight, I can’t extend it fully.”

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About 15 per cent of patients with elbow injuries will develop a severe form of joint stiffness, called a contracture. Until now, surgery has been the best course of treatment but a new study is looking at an alternative therapy using the asthma drug, Ketotifen.

“After many years we decided that the medication used for asthma would have promise in being able to limit the number of people that would have to have this surgery after suffering an elbow injury,” explains Dr. Kevin Hildebrand, an orthopedic surgeon and a researcher with the University of Calgary.

Early research has found Ketotifen helps limit the body’s release of a biochemical growth factor that causes the elbow joint to stiffen. In asthma patients, Ketotifen prevents similar cells from thickening and causing airways to narrow.

“Ketotifen has been used for 40 years already in humans,” says Hildrebrand.  “It’s a very safe medication with very few side effects.”

Researchers hope to enroll 150 people in the study, half of whom will receive Ketotifen and half, a placebo. Patients who have been injured for less than a week or whose surgery to repair an elbow injury is less than a week old are eligible to participate in the study.

Those interested in participating should contact the study co-ordinator at 587-225-2959

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