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Q&A: Hip Arthritis

I’ve heard that viscosupplementation can help ease osteoarthritis in the knee. Could it help my hip arthritis? My doctor thinks it won’t.

Healthy joints are lubricated by synovial fluid, but people with osteoarthritis often have less of this fluid than they should. Viscosupplementation involves injecting a substance called hyaluronic acid (a component of synovial fluid) into the joint to make up for this discrepancy. The treatment doesn’t cure osteoarthritis, but some people find that it eases pain and stiffness in the joint. Not everyone experiences these benefits, though, and the treatment can result in side effects like bleeding, and infection.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has approved viscosupplementation for use only in knee osteoarthritis, although some doctors do use it “off-label” in the hip, shoulder, and ankle. Studies into the efficacy of viscosupplementation in the hip have been inconclusive, and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) conditionally recommends against it for the treatment for hip arthritis (incidentally, the ACR does recommend it in the treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee). These factors may inform your doctor’s reticence.

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