Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is a top cause of disability among the elderly. Total knee replacement (TKR) has been available as an effective and definite surgical method to treat severe OA of the knee. However, TKR is a significant procedure with potential risk for serious complications and high costs. Alternative lower risk therapies that can delay or obviate TKR are valuable to those who are poor candidates for surgery or wish to avoid TKR as long as possible. Given the chondroprotective effects of hyaluronic acid (HA) injections, they are a safe and effective treatment to improve pain, function, and longevity of the knee. Thus, HA features the potential to delay or obviate TKR.
We aim to study the safety and effectiveness of repeated courses of HA on the time to TKR over a 3-year period using data from a large US health plan administrative claims database.
Retrospective analyses were conducted by identifying knee OA patients during the selection period (2007-2010). The follow-up period was 36 months, post-index date of initial HA injection. Procedural outcomes and adverse events of interest were tabulated and analyzed. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to model the risk of TKR.
A total of 50,389 patients who received HA for treatment of knee OA and met the study inclusion criteria were analyzed. Successive courses of HA showed a good safety profile and led to high proportions of patients without TKR 3 years after treatment initiation. Multivariate statistical modeling showed that multiple courses of HA injections significantly decreased the rates of TKR (95.0% without TKR for ≥5 courses vs 71.6% without TKR for 1 course; hazard ratio, 0.138; P < .0001).
Repeated courses of treatment with HA are safe and are associated with the delay of TKR for up to 3 years. Additional research is needed to evaluate the effect of repeated HA courses on delaying TKR beyond a 3-year time horizon.
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