What is Viscosupplementation?
Viscosupplementation is a procedure that is often utilized by the doctors at Lake Washington Sports & Spine, mainly for patients who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee. Osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease) is mechanical wear of cartilage and bone within a joint and often limits patients’ abilities to remain active. Since our goal at Lake Washington Sports & Spine is to Keep People Active, any procedure that helps our patients maintain their level of physical function is a great tool in our belt.
Viscosupplementation (also known as hyaluronic acid injections or hyaluronan injections) involves injecting a lubricating fluid into a joint (most commonly in the knee, which is the only joint that has historically been covered by insurance, but it can be helpful in other joints as well). Hyaluronic acid is an important component of the joint fluid in healthy joints and is found in lower concentrations in osteoarthritic joints.
What is it like to receive a viscosupplement injection at Lake Washington Sports & Spine?
Both Drs. Hyman and Chimes typically recommend that their patients receive a series of three injections over the course of three weeks (one injection per week). The patient will come in at their regular check-in time and fill out a follow-up form. As always, we recommend patients wear athletic clothing to the appointment (shorts are particularly ideal). The doctor will perform the injection under ultrasound guidance to make sure that the hyaluronan is accurately placed into the joint space. There is a chance that patients will start feeling benefit after the first injection, but typically, maximum benefit is gained after all three injections have been completed.
Doctors’ recommendations post-injection:
1. Ice the injection site if patient is feeling any local tenderness
2. Continue any mild to moderate cardiovascular exercise routine
3. Avoid any High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), weight training or resistance training for the first 48 hours after the injection
4. Call the office with any other questions/concerns that may arise
The benefits of viscosupplement injections can be felt for between several months and a year, but of course, these numbers vary greatly between patients. It is possible for the series of injections to be repeated; usually our doctors and insurance companies require at least 3-6 months between the first series and the second. Additionally, it is important to understand that viscosupplement injections are not substitute for total joint replacement surgery if a patient’s osteoarthritis is severe.
What if I have osteoarthritis in areas OTHER than the knee?
Currently, the use of viscosupplementation is FDA approved to treat knee arthritis only but it has been shown to be beneficial when used in other arthritic joints such as hips and ankles. As a practice that focuses on delivering “pure medicine”, our doctors do not want patient care to be restricted by insurance companies, and therefore we offer competitive direct-pay pricing for viscosupplement injections not covered by insurance. The doctors at Lake Washington Sports & Spine will make it clear if they feel viscosupplementation is the best method of treatment, whether or not it is covered by insurance.
If you are suffering from osteoarthritis that is keeping you from participating in the activities you love, we recommend you call our office and set up a consultation to see if viscosupplementation is the right choice for you!