Osteoarthritis is a common condition most often affecting the knees, back, and fingers in mature adults. Contrary to many beliefs, not everyone gets arthritis as we age. Osteoarthritis is a disease just like diabetes, and we know there is a genetic pre-disposition and also some degree of mechanical factors as well such as a person's age, occupation, or the mechanical axis of their legs.
The treatment for arthritis in the past has been limited to reducing the pain and inflammation, but until visco supplementation came along, we orthopedic surgeons really had nothing to treat the disease itself. Visco supplementation such as Hyalgan or many of its' other derivatives have been shown to reduce the loss of the articular cartilage, the surface of the knee. By getting visco supplementation every four to six months, we orthopedic surgeons hope to reduce the deterioration of the knee to bone-on-bone. Once raw bone opposes raw bone, visco supplementation is less effective, and that you are a candidate for a knee replacement.
However, in my practice over the past ten years, I have very few patients who responded to visco supplementation that ever wound up having a knee replacement. If you have been told that you need a knee replacement and have not tried visco supplementation, then I certainly think it is worth a try, because there are very few risks involved. There is a small chance of infection or a reaction to the gel, and people that are allergic to chicken or eggs may not have visco supplementation. For the vast majority of my patients, visco supplementation has reduced the pain and has enabled them to increase their activity level to the point where major surgery can be postponed, or even avoided. Visco supplementation can either be done in one treatment, or three to five treatments depending upon the severity of your disease. We encourage you to make an appointment at the Knee Center to discuss all the alternatives.