Researchers Question Treatment for Osteoarthritis

It’s estimated that nearly 27 million Americans live with osteoarthritis, a type of joint disorder due to aging and wear on a joint. Symptoms include aching, swollen, or stiff knees. For most sufferers, an ibuprofen may relieve the pain. For other patients, a more invasive treatment is necessary. Viscosupplementation involves injecting into the knee hyaluronic acid, a lubricating fluid found naturally in the knee. But a new study questions the effects of this type of treatment.

According to an article on, researchers at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland have said this treatment “has minimal benefits and potential for harm.” They discourage the use of this treatment.

But Dr. John Richmond, Chairman of the Orthopedics Department at New England Baptist Hospital disagrees, and said, “We have an epidemic of osteoarthritis of the knee and we have limited treatment options. This needs to remain one of those limited treatment options and should be used appropriately by the physician giving it.”

Side effects of viscosupplementation include flare-ups, where the knee becomes hot and swollen within 24 hours after an injection, as well as excessive joint fluid collecting inside the knee. Researchers found that these side effects increased with the use of viscosupplementation.

Dr. Richmond recommends viscosupplementataion as a treatment option for younger patients – 40-, 50-, to 60-year-olds who have mild to moderate forms of the disease. He also said patients should be appropriately screened to determine if they are candidates for this treatment.

If you are an older patient suffering from osteoarthritis, and your physician recommends viscosupplementation as a treatment option, be sure to discuss any concerns you have regarding this research.

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