May 23, 2024

Viscosupplementation: A Non-Surgical Treatment For Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common condition that causes pain and stiffness in the joints. As the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones wears down, it can lead to pain and limited mobility. For many patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, viscosupplementation has emerged as a promising non-surgical treatment option. Let’s take a deeper look at this treatment method.

What is Viscosupplementation?

Viscosupplementation, also known as hyaluronic acid injection therapy, involves injecting a gel-like substance called hyaluronic acid (HA) into the knee joint. HA is a normal component of synovial fluid and cartilage within the joint. As osteoarthritis progresses, the amount and quality of HA decreases. The goal of viscosupplementation is to replenish the HA levels in the joint, thereby reducing pain and improving mobility.

Five HA products have been approved by the FDA for treating osteoarthritis knee pain – Supartz, Orthovisc, Synvisc, Euflexxa, and Gel-One. The injections are administered in a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic using ultrasound or X-ray guidance. Most patients receive a series of 3-5 injections over 5-6 weeks.

How Does it Work?

The HA injection acts as a lubricating and protective cushion in the knee joint. It helps restore the natural viscosity and elasticity of synovial fluid. This allows smoother gliding of the bones during movement and takes pressure off the nerve endings, thereby reducing pain. The increased HA levels also help stimulate the production of HA by the body’s own cells.

Effectiveness for Osteoarthritis

Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated the short-term effectiveness of HA injections for relieving osteoarthritis knee pain and improving function. According to research, around 60-70% of patients experience significant pain relief after the treatment series, lasting approximately 6 months on average. Some people may get relief for over a year. It works best for mild to moderate osteoarthritis.

Viscosupplementation is generally recommended for patients who have not found sufficient relief from exercises, weight loss and oral pain relievers alone. The injections allow some patients to delay or avoid knee replacement surgery. They also provide a drug-free option for those unable or unwilling to try medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) due to side effects.

Safety of HA Injections

Hyaluronic acid injections are very safe when administered properly by a trained physician. Mild side effects like temporary joint pain, swelling or fluid around the knee are common after injections but usually resolve within a few days. Serious adverse effects are rare. As it contains natural components, HA does not carry many of the risks associated with steroid or surgery. People with bleeding disorders or joint infections should not undergo the treatment.

Alternative Treatments for Comparison

A few other conservative options for osteoarthritis knee pain relief include:

– Corticosteroid Injections – Provide more short-term pain relief than HA but can accelerate cartilage damage with repeated use.

– Physical Therapy – Helps strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and applymodalities like ultrasound for ongoing symptom control.

– Braces or Assistive Devices – A cane or hinged knee brace helps distribute weight more evenly while walking.

– Diet and Weight Loss – Losing excess pounds reduces stress on weight-bearing joints.

– Topical Pain Relievers – Creams containing capsaicin or other ingredients temporarily relieve surface arthritis pain when rubbed in the knee area.

– Supplementary Joint Care – Taking glucosamine, chondroitin and other nutraceuticals promotes joint health and may modestly help osteoarthritis symptoms.

Should You Try Viscosupplementation?

In summary, viscosupplementation with HA injections provides a low-risk, medication-free option to manage knee osteoarthritis. When combined with exercises and weight management, it can help delay knee replacement or function better without one. People who dislike oral medications or are not finding enough relief from lifestyle therapies alone should discuss viscosupplementation with their doctor. For most, a few simple injections can meaningfully improve mobility and enjoyment of daily activities.

*Note:

  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it