Knee Gel Injections (Viscosupplementation)

Physician injecting a patient's knee for osteoarthritis.

What are knee gel injections?

The knees are one of the most frequently affected joints by arthritis. While knee degeneration has many possible causes, one of the most common is from osteoarthritis. This leads to cartilage breakdown in the knee which can lead to increased pain as bone-on-bone movement occurs. This pain can greatly impair movement, and as a result lead to a reduced quality of life. Fortunately, there are numerous options available to treat knee pain from osteoarthritis. While treatments can depend on the severity of the underlying arthritis, these will generally start with conservative therapies then work up to more invasive ones for refractory pain. One such option for relief is hyaluronic acid injections. If successful, these injections can improve function, reduce pain, and hopefully put off or avoid knee replacement surgery.

Hyaluronic acid, or viscosupplementation, is a FDA approved for treatment of knee osteoarthritis. Hylauronic acid is a substance that is naturally present in joints, and functions as a lubricant and a shock absorbent. The idea behind these injections is that they will temporarily restore the natural function of the knee by injecting a substance which will provide cushioning and reduce bone-on-bone contact. Individual responses vary, but many patients experience months, if not potentially a year or more of relief. Once your osteoarthritis related knee pain has failed to respond to conservative treatments such as physical therapy or simple analgesics e.g., NSAID’s, talk to your provider about being evaluated for this treatment.

What can I expect if I get a knee gel injection?

Knee viscosupplementation is typically a quick procedure that can be performed in a clinic setting. These injections should only be performed by a qualified health care professional. At Cahaba Pain, we will first evaluate you, your medical records, imaging, and symptoms of pain to rule out other causes of knee pain and ensure that you would likely get good relief from the gel injection. Once this is done, you would arrive the day of your procedure. After prepping the knee in sterile fashion, the doctor will numb up the knee joint using a small amount of local anesthetic. Depending on your knee joint anatomy and amount of arthritis, xray or ultrasound may be used to guide a small needle into the knee joint. Once the joint is entered, the gel will be given slowly using gentle pressure. Afterwards, the needle is removed, and a small band aid is applied to the injection site. Because only a small amount of local anesthesia is required, you would not need IV sedation or a driver for this procedure.

What can I expect after my knee injection?

Depending on the type of gel used you might feel relief right away and can repeat the injection as needed, or you might require a short series of multiple injections for the best long-term relief. As with all procedures, there is a small risk of bleeding, infection, or damage to your knee joint. However, these are rare risks, and the most common side effect is minor postprocedural soreness that improves within days. Most patients can get back to normal activity within 24 hours of the injection and start enjoying the pain relief from it.

At Cahaba Pain and Spine Care, we are committed to reducing your pain and improving your overall quality of life. If you would like to discuss knee pain treatments including knee gel injections, please give us a call and we would be happy to schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment plan.