To administer a hyaluronic acid joint injection, the doctor first uses a needle to aspirate any excess fluid from the patient's joint, then injects the joint with hyaluronic acid, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, or AAOS. Doctors typically use the same needle for the aspiration and injection, although some doctors prefer to use two separate needles. The patient receives between one and five injections over the course of several weeks, depending on which medicine the doctor uses.
It may take several weeks before a patient notices an improvement in symptoms, but pain relief can last as long as several months. Not all patients obtain symptom relief from hyaluronic acid injections, but those who do can receive additional injections after approximately six months, states the AAOS. Research suggests that the shots are most effective for patients in the earlier stages of arthritis.
After receiving the injection, the patient must not put excess weight on the joint for a couple of days, advises the AAOS. The patient may experience some pain, warmth or swelling of the joint for a short time following the injection and may ease these symptoms by applying an ice pack. Complications of the procedure include allergic reactions, bleeding and infection, but these rarely occur.