What is viscosupplementation?
Viscosupplementation is a widely used, non-surgical treatment for degenerative joint disease (DJD). This is when the healthy cartilage, which functions to cushion and lubricate the joints, breaks down over time. The loss of lubricant causes irritation and inflammation in the joints, which can cause severe pain.
Viscosupplementation is a relatively quick and simple procedure which involves injecting another lubricant, namely hyaluronic acid, into the problematic joint in order to decrease inflammation, irritation, and pain. Viscosupplementation has been found to aid significantly with pain management and has also been found to delay the need for total joint replacement surgery.
Who can benefit from viscosupplementation?
Viscosupplementation is most commonly done on osteoarthritic knees, although it can benefit any osteoarthritic joint. Those with chronic joint pain due to osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD) may be candidates for viscosupplementation if conservative treatments have not provided relief.
How is it done?
After sterilizing the area, the physician will use ultrasound guidance to inject the hyaluronic acid into the joint space. Some types of viscosupplementation products may only require 1 injection whereas others may require a total of 3 or 5 injections; this depends on the manufacturer (see below). Please allow 1-3 weeks after the last injection for the results of the injection to take effect.
- Supartz: 5 injections
- Orthovisc: 4 injections
- Euflexxa: 3 injections
- Gel-one: 1 injection
What are the benefits and risks of viscosupplementation?
The benefits of viscosupplementation include:
- Minimally-invasive: Epidural steroid injections are minimally invasive, meaning that there is minimal risk of complications.
- Pain-relief: Viscosupplementation therapy can help relieve your joint pain and help you get back on your feet in order to continue your normal activities.
- Quick: Viscosupplementation is an in-office procedure that takes around 5 minutes on average.
Patients may notice some post-procedural swelling, redness, itching, or pain at the injection site. These reactions are usually mild and are temporary.