Hyaluronic Knee Injections: Worth the Risk?

Hyaluronic Knee Injections: Worth the Risk? 645d5219c8794.png

Hyaluronic Knee Injections: Worth the Risk?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting 32.5 million US adults.

32.5 million US adults!?!

Yes, you read that right.

Not only that but it is estimated that 1 out of 4 adults experience chronic knee pain.

With so many people experiencing knee pain and osteoarthritis, it’s no wonder that millions of people have turned to knee injections to help offer quick relief.

However, the potential relief that knee injections can provide does come at a cost, both financially and physically. As a result, some doctors advise against using these injections as a solution for osteoarthritic knee pain.

Over the past few weeks, we have taken a look at two different kinds of knee injections: Corticosteroid injections, and Hyaluronic Acid Injections, also known as viscosupplementation injections.

In our last article, we looked at the risks associated with corticosteroid injections, which range from osteoporosis of nearby bone tissue to joint infection, nerve damage, and several other potential reactions.

This week we are going to look at the side effects and risks associated with the use of Hyaluronic Acid Injections for osteoarthritis knee pain.

Hyaluronic acid is a gel-like substance that occurs naturally in the body as part of the synovial lining that coats the joints. Hyaluronic acid is also present in other areas of the body such as the skin and eyes, where it helps retain moisture and keep these areas lubricated.

When it comes to relieving osteoarthritis knee pain, hyaluronic acid is sometimes injected into the knee to help provide cushioning and lubrication. This temporary solution can ostensibly help decrease knee pain and inflammation, as well as improve knee function.

Unfortunately, just like with corticosteroid knee injections, the relief experienced as a result of hyaluronic acid injections is only temporary. Furthermore, the results following hyaluronic injections can actually vary greatly.

Some studies have found that the duration of relief following this type of knee injection can last for a period anywhere from up 2 months, or in some cases up to 6 months. And, on average, the most pain relief is experienced between weeks 5 and 13.

For every study that finds hyaluronic knee injections to be effective in managing osteoarthritic knee pain, there are countless others that find the impact to be inconclusive or even negligible.

Some studies have even found that treating knee osteoarthritis with injections of hyaluronic acid doesn’t do anything to help relieve knee pain, and these injections may even raise the risk of adverse effects.

One of these studies was published by the British Medical Journal in July of this year.

The study was led by an international team of researchers that set out to review existing studies on the effect of hyaluronic acid injections on relieving knee pain and improving knee function in patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis.

After combing through years and years of data, the researchers were able to identify 169 studies involving 21,163 patients with knee osteoarthritis that compared hyaluronic acid injections ( also known as viscosupplementation) with either placebo treatment or no treatment.

The main analysis of this review found that viscosupplementation was associated with a small reduction in pain when compared with a placebo. However, the difference was so slight, that it was described as being “clinically irrelevant.”

The researchers also found ample evidence that showed that since 2009, hyaluronic acid injection and placebo treatment have led to the exact same clinical outcome in terms of pain reduction, which renders these injections useless.

Another key finding in this particular research study was the risk of serious adverse effects. The researchers found that the risk of adverse effects from hyaluronic acid injections was 45% higher than from placebo.

The most common side effects from hyaluronic acid injections include pain at the injection site, fluid build-up in the knee, and allergic reactions.

Many people also encounter a flare-up of their arthritis after the injection, which can cause additional pain and swelling in the short term.

Other risks of hyaluronic acid injections include bleeding and the risk of a serious infection.

The Bottom Line:
Similar to corticosteroid knee injections for osteoarthritis, hyaluronic acid injections are only a temporary solution at best, to relieve knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.

However, it is important to keep in mind that they do not work for everyone and that these injections do come with the risk of adverse effects and as a result, more health problems.

Therefore, in order to truly treat knee osteoarthritis, other methods need to be considered such as physical therapy, improvements in diet and exercise, and in some cases it may be beneficial to have knee surgery or a less invasive procedure such as genicular artery embolization.

If you are interested in finding out if you can benefit from genicular artery embolization and experience the long-term benefits of this non-invasive procedure to treat your knee osteoarthritis, please call us and set up your consultation today.

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