What is viscosupplementation?
Viscosupplementation (joint lubrication therapy) is an injection in which a lubricating gel-like substance (hyaluronate) is injected into the knee joint. The knee bends an average of 1 million times per year. To aid in all that movement, the joint is naturally filled with synovial fluid which acts as a lubricant and shock absorber. The injection of hyalurinate is used to supplement the synovial fluid which is often deficient in arthritic knees.
The concentration of natural occurring hyaluronate in the synovial fluid is reduced resulting in smaller and less effective molecules. The HA loses some of the lubricating and shock absorbing properties that protect the knee, resulting in joint pain, stiffness and worsening of osteoarthritis.
Who benefits from viscosupplementation?
Hyaluronate injection benefits patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee, and those who have experienced a breakdown of the synovial fluid due to accident or disease. The procedure is highly successful for those who have failed to respond to more conservative treatment. The process involves a series of 3-5 injections into the knee joint over the course of a month or so.
How does viscosupplementation work?
The viscosupplementation injection is administered directly into the knee from a point on the side and under the kneecap. The injections usually take no longer than 15 seconds. Up to 12 weeks may be required for the injections to take full effect. Patients commonly report pain reduction and increased joint mobility lasting from a few months to over a year.
Researchers are not exactly sure how hyaluronate injections relieve pain. Theories suggest that the injection of supplemental hyaluronate may induce the body to produce its own hyaluronate in the knee. Researchers also believe hyaluronate may have anti-inflammatory properties, or that the new “lubricant” in the knee reduces inflammation or protects and soothes the nerve endings exposed by the worn cartilage of the arthritic knee.
Viscosupplementation is one of many procedures performed at PainCare Centers in Somersworth, NH. Ask your family physician if viscosupplementation might be appropriate for your condition.