Viscosupplementation refers to the injection of a jelly-like (hyaluronan) preparation into the joint with the goal of reducing friction between the bones. Hyaluronan is a natural substance present in the joint fluid that assists in lubrication. It allows smooth movement of the cartilage covered articulating surfaces of the joint.
Viscosupplementation is indicated in the management knee osteoarthritis that has not responded to non-surgical treatment options such as pain medications, physical therapy and corticosteroid injections. The goal of gel injections is to provide symptomatic relief and delay the need for surgery. A single dose or a total of three separate doses of the material, over several weeks, may be required for optimum benefit.
Some patients may experience mild pain, swelling, warmth and redness at the injection site for up to 48 hours following a viscosupplementation injection. Headache and joint stiffness may also occur in rare cases. Ice packs and an analgesic may be used, if required, to ease the discomfort. Any strenuous activity such as jogging or tennis should be completely avoided for 48 hours to a week after the injection and should be resumed only after consultation with your doctor.
The amount and duration of relief from viscosupplementation injections varies from patient to patient. Some controversy exists as to how effective these treatments are in reducing the pain of knee arthritis and delaying or avoiding the need for surgery. Discuss with your doctor if you are a candidate for gel injections and check with your insurance company regarding whether or not the cost of injection is covered.