Viscosupplementation treats pain caused by mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis with a gel injection to the joint, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Although viscosupplementation relieves pain and inflammation, it does not help the knee regenerate damaged cartilage or reverse osteoarthritis.
The gel injected into the knee is hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in the fluid around joints, explains the AAOS. Hyaluronic acid lubricates the joints, and people with osteoarthritis have less of this acid in their joint fluid. Injections of hyaluronic acid temporarily lubricate the knee, and the injections may also stimulate the body to produce more hyaluronic acid.
Patients who undergo viscosupplementation should avoid putting weight on their knee for 48 hours, advises the AAOS. If the knee is warm to the touch and slightly swollen after the injections, patients should use an ice pack to prevent further swelling. Patients should expect to continue their pain management regimen after viscosupplementation because the injections do not immediately reduce pain levels.
Pain levels drop slowly after viscosupplementation, with most patients reporting the greatest amount of pain reduction two to three months after the first injection, notes Healthline. Patients should expect to continue viscosupplementation injections every six months. As the osteoarthritis progresses, patients may have to stop injections and consider joint replacement or another type of surgery.