During the development of knee osteoarthritis, the normal fluid within the knee (known as synovial fluid) loses its viscosity due to a decrease in its proteoglycan content. This, along with numerous other factors, contribute to the development and worsening of knee osteoarthritis.
There are several options for the non-operative treatment of knee osteoarthritis, including intra-articular knee injections. Corticosteroid knee injections will reduce the inflammation within the joint, improving osteoarthritis pain temporarily. However, once the steroid wears off, the inflammation will eventually recur and the knee pain will return.
Another treatment option given by injection is viscosupplementation. This is an injection of hyaluronic acid – a key component of normal synovial fluid. This injection comes in single-dose or triple-dose versions, and can improve the viscosity of the synovial fluid. This allows the knee to bend more smoothly without any catching or grinding – this is of most benefit in the early stages of arthritis before full thickness cartilage wear has occurred.
Viscosupplementation treatments have the same risks as any intra-articular knee injection – there is a very small risk of infection occurring within the knee joint after the injection. Some patients experience an increase in their pain for 24-48 hours after the infection that raises concern for infection – this is a normal response and normally dies down on its own. If it does not, but instead worsens, this is when medical attention should be sought.
Many patients experience excellent pain relief from viscosupplementation injections that often lasts significantly longer than corticosteroid injections. However, not all patients are candidates to receive these injections – if performed in a patient who is not suitable, the results will be disappointing. Your surgeon will be able to tell you if you are a candidate for viscosupplementation injections.
Although many patients expect they will require surgery as soon as they receive a diagnosis of osteoarthritis, there are many effective non-operative treatments that can provide years of pain relief before a knee replacement is necessary. If you think you might be a candidate for viscosupplementation injections, call and arrange to see one of our specialist orthopaedic surgeons now!