Viscosupplementation or “gel injections” is a medical procedure in which a gel-like substance, primarily
hyaluronic acid (HA), is injected directly into a joint space to provide lubrication and potentially
stimulate the joint to produce its own natural hyaluronic acid. This procedure is most commonly used
for the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA), particularly in the knee, although it can be utilized in other
joints as well.
The basic concept behind viscosupplementation is to:
- Lubricate the joint: The injected hyaluronic acid provides a slippery surface, reducing friction between the joint surfaces.
- Cushion shocks: The viscous nature of the fluid can help absorb shocks.
- Possibly stimulate the production of natural hyaluronic acid.
The effectiveness of viscosupplementation is a topic of debate among clinicians and researchers. Here’s
what is generally agreed upon:
- Short-term Pain Relief: Many patients report reduced pain and improved joint function after receiving viscosupplementation injections, especially in the weeks following the treatment. This can last up to 6-12 months.
- Variable Result: The effectiveness can vary widely among patients. Some people experience
significant relief, while others notice minimal or no improvement. It has been shown that the more
severe the arthritis the less well that it works.
- Not a Cure: Viscosupplementation does not reverse osteoarthritis or cure the condition. It is primarily
aimed at symptom relief. In one study on knee osteoarthritis, people who used viscosupplementation
were able to delay their joint replacement for an average of 3 years.
- Adverse Reactions: While generally considered safe, some patients may experience pain, swelling, or
other reactions at the injection site. This is usually self-limited and rarely last more than a day. More
severe side effects are rare but can include infection or allergic reactions.
To conclude, viscosupplementation can offer relief to some osteoarthritis patients, but its success is not
guaranteed for everyone. If you or someone you know is considering the procedure, come to Total
Orthopedics and Sports Medicine as we have specialists who can discuss the potential risks, benefits,
and alternative treatments for your condition.