Osteoarthritis is a disease which the majority of Americans, at some point in their life, suffer from. Many different forms of treatment have been developed to try to help people through the pain and discomfort which is associated with osteoarthritis. One of the newer forms of treatment is the replacement of synovial (joint) fluid within arthritic joints. This is helpful because during the progression of arthritis, this synovial fluid breaks down into smaller units, thereby decreasing its lubricating and shock absorbing abilities.
The backbone of the joint lubrication fluid is known as hyaluronic acid. Injectable forms exist and have been demonstrated to have a positive effect in reducing the pain of arthritis. Oral forms are also available but currently there is no proven evidence of its effectiveness. Administration of hyaluronic acid by injection directly into the knee is done in a series of three to five injections approximately one week apart. Its onset of action is often immediate, however several studies have found that most individuals do not benefit from the injections until after the final injection.
Hyaluronic acid has been approved by the FDA. It can be administered only by a qualified provider in a series of injections as mentioned above. Most insurance companies are currently paying for these injections, after traditional and conservative measures have been attempted.
In summary, hyaluronic acid injections have been found to be beneficial in osteoarthritic knees. There is no explanation as to why some individuals react positively when others do not. However, it has been found that 80 to 85 percent of individuals who are treated with this series of injections have some amount of pain relief which lasts anywhere from nine to 12 months. This series of injections can be repeated if necessary, though the understanding and reasoning for repeat series of injections has not yet been clearly defined.