Injectible Therapy Options
Injectable therapies have the advantage of being a local treatment for what is typically a local problem. The most common application of injectable therapies is for knee osteoarthritis followed by shoulder and hip as these are the joints with the greatest prevalence of osteoarthritis. Injectable therapies can also be used in other joints such as the elbow, wrist, ankle and occasionally in certain small joints of the foot and hand as well as in the spine.
Corticosteroid injections have been available for approximately fifty years. Used appropriately, they can effectively treat joint inflammation. They have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive. However their effectiveness is usually short lived, which limits their effectiveness for treating osteoarthritis as it is a chronic condition of aging. Corticosteroids are most effective in managing acute inflammatory flares. They are also often used to manage post-surgical inflammation. However, corticosteroid injections must be used judiciously as they have potential for causing cartilage damage if used inappropriately or excessively.
Hyaluronic acid gels
Hyaluronic acid gels have been available for twenty-five years. They are a very safe therapy which works by decreasing joint inflammation and lubricating the joint surface. Although there is a wide degree of variability in their effectiveness in any individual patient, there are typically effective in approximately 50-60% of patients, provide symptom relief of approximately 40% and will last around 6-12 months before eventually wearing off and losing their effectiveness. Hyaluronic acid gel therapies are moderately expensive but have been around for such a long period of time that they are now covered on many third-party insurance plans. At Comprehensive Arthritis Management, we believe that the most effective Hyaluronic acid gel product is Synvisc although it should be noted that there are a large number of options currently available.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
This therapy represents the first biologic therapy that has become available for the management of osteoarthritis. A biologic therapy is manipulating normal human biology in order to treat osteoarthritis. In the case of PRP, a blood sample is taken from the patient’s arm and placed into a centrifuge which allows the blood to be separated into two layers. The top, lighter layer contains platelets cells that are suspended in the plasma. The lower portion of the sample contains red cells and white cells which cause inflammation and are discarded. The plasma with the suspended platelets is injected into the patients knee and the injected platelets release a large number of anti-inflammatory and growth factor molecules into the joint environment. This is effective in diminishing inflammation and osteoarthritis symptoms in 70-80% of patients, typically decreasing symptom severity by 70-80% and typically lasting in excess of one year with most patients getting multiple years of improvement before the effectiveness wears off. There are some forms of PRP injections which include white cells in part of the injectable cells, but we feel that leukocyte poor PRP in which the white cells are removed is more effective than leukocyte rich PRP. We use a form of PRP injection called autologous conditioned plasma (ACP).
nStride is relatively new biologic therapy that is also based on a blood sample but is very different in its mechanism of action than platelet therapy.