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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(7):1644-1646

A common disease in the United States, osteoarthritis is associated with significant morbidity and cost. Treatment options include muscle-strengthening exercises, weight loss, use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs), intra-articular injections of corticosteroids and surgery. NSAIDs are generally considered first-line therapy, but these agents do not slow the progression of the disease. Recent studies have shown that an intra-articular injection of hyaluronic acid has been effective in reducing pain. However, there are no long-term studies about the effect of this treatment option on joint function. Six months after treatment, Goorman and colleagues assessed functional changes in patients treated with an intra-articular injection of a hyaluronic acid preparation (hylan G-F 20).

Patients enrolled in the study had an established diagnosis of osteoarthritis of the knee and had failed or were unable to tolerate conservative therapy. The intervention consisted of an intra-articular injection of hylan G-F 20 into the affected knee once a week for three weeks. The patients were evaluated using a standard assessment tool that measures physical and social function, bodily pain, and physical and emotional roles. This evaluation took place before the injection series and six months after completing the treatment course.

The patients showed significant improvement in all of the assessment categories. Age and percent of weight above ideal body weight were not predictors in the overall functioning of the patients.

The authors conclude that osteoarthritis can have a significant impact on patients' physical, emotional and social functioning. The use of intra-articular hyaluronic acid injections in osteoarthritic knees can improve the overall well-being of patients, thus allowing them to function better physically, emotionally and socially after this treatment.

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