In order for joints to move smoothly they must contain an adequate amount of synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant and shock absorber. Osteoarthritis causes synovial fluid to lose its properties by depletion of a component called hyaluronan. This leads to loss of cartilage and painful rubbing of the bones in the joints. A gel-like form of hyaluronan called hyaluronates or hyaluronic acid may be prepared and injected into the joints to increase their lubricating and shock-absorbing properties. Hyaluronate injections can relieve pain, improve mobility and delay the need for surgery.
Hyaluronate injections are usually performed after other non-surgical treatments for osteoarthritis such as medications, physical therapy and steroid injections have failed.
The procedure, also called viscosupplementation, first involves removal of any excess joint fluid with a syringe. Hyaluronates are then injected into the joint. Immediately following the injection, you may experience pain, swelling and warmth, which can be eased by ice applications. Avoid weight-bearing or strenuous activity involving the joint for the next 48 hours. The pain and swelling from osteoarthritis is gradually relieved with effects lasting for several months. A single dose or a total of 3 separate doses over several weeks may be required for optimum benefits.
Complications are rare but occasionally an allergic reaction may develop, intensifying symptoms.