Hyaluronic acid(HA) is a naturally occurring substance found in the synovial (joint) fluid. It acts as a lubricant to enable bones to move smoothly over each other and as a shock absorber for joint loads. In people with osteoarthritis (OA), this fluid becomes diseased and no longer protects the joint effectively. The covering on the ends of the bones (cartilage) can also break down, becoming worn and frayed. These changes may result in inflammation, swelling, tenderness and pain in the joint, which leads to a reduction in mobility.
Although OA is most commonly found in the knee joint, it can also affect other joints such as the hip, ankle, shoulder or hands.
Viscosupplementation is a procedure that can increase the cushioning and lubrication of osteoarthritic synovial, or joint, fluid. Viscosupplementation has been studied as a treatment for osteoarthritis since the 1970s and has been shown to be an effective treatment option in patients who cannot get pain relief from nonmedicinal measures or analgesic drugs. This procedure is not a cure for osteoarthritis of the knee, hip, shoulder or ankle; it is a treatment that may reduce or eliminate pain that occurs with this condition.
With viscosupplementation, your orthopaedic surgeon or sports medicine phsycian injects a gel that is similar to healthy synovial fluid into your joint. The goals of the treatment are to:
Hyaluronic acid does not have an immediate pain-relieving effect. You may notice a local reaction, such as pain, warmth, and slight swelling immediately after the injection. These symptoms generally do not last long. You may want to apply an ice pack to help ease them. For the first 48 hours after the injection, you should avoid excessive weightbearing on the leg, such as standing for long periods, jogging or heavy lifting.
Depending on the product used, treatment may involve 3 to 5 injections. Over the course of the injections, you may notice that you have less pain in your knee.
• Hyaluronic acid does seem to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. The injections may also stimulate the body to produce more of its own hyaluronic acid.
• Effects may last for several months.
The success of viscosupplementation may depend on how well the fluid restores the elasticity and lubrication of the synovial fluid. Individual results may vary.