Knee osteoarthritis affects at least 19% of US adults 45 years old and older. While no cure for knee osteoarthritis has been found, there are treatment options available to help people stay active and manage their pain. Viscosupplementation is one of those treatment options.

What is Viscosupplementation?

Viscosupplementation is a medical procedure during which a gel-like fluid called hyaluronic acid is injected into the knee joint. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring lubricant that allows for smoother joint movement. It is found in lower concentrations in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Who is a Candidate for Viscosupplementation?

Patients with knee osteoarthritis who do not show increased mobility or reduced pain with nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy and pain relievers may be good candidates for viscosupplementation. Conversely, this treatment may not be right for knee osteoarthritis patients who have a knee joint infection, skin disease, or certain bleeding disorders.

What Does the Procedure Involve?

Over the course of several weeks, patients receive 1 to 5 shots of hyaluronic acid. If any swelling occurs during the procedure, excess fluid will be removed prior to injection. It is recommended that patients avoid jogging, heavy lifting, and standing for long periods of time after injection.

What Are the Side Effects?

After the injection you may notice warmth, pain, or slight swelling locally. These symptoms typically don’t last long and can be soothed with an ice pack.

What are the Risks?

Beyond mild side effects, viscosupplementation has some risks:

  • Extreme swelling and inflammation
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction to the injected material
  • Bursitis

Is Viscosupplementation Effective?

When successful, viscosupplementation can provide knee osteoarthritis pain relief for 3 to 12 months. Injections may be repeated incrementally. However, viscosupplementation is not effective for everyone.

References

1. Wallace IJ, Worthington S, Felson D, et al. Knee osteoarthritis has doubled in prevalence since the mid-20th century. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2017;114(35):9332-9336.

2. Viscosupplementation treatment for knee arthritis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Reviewed June 2015. Accessed August 10, 2018.

3. Vad VB. Viscosupplementation for knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis-Health. Updated September 20, 2013. Accessed August 10, 2018.