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Injections to Treat Knee Pain Caused by Arthritis Print E-mail

If your knee pain is severe, your physician may elect to inject preparations for the treatment of knee pain directly into your arthritic knee. Knee injections may take several forms:

Corticosteroid Injection

Corticosteroids, also known as glucocorticoids, refer to a group of naturally occurring human hormones. These hormones, commonly referred to as "cortisone", can be artificially produced in the laboratory and purified for injection into inflamed or arthritic joints, due to rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or trauma. For knee arthritis, cortisone injections into the joint can often help reduce the inflammation for two to three months. Before administering the cortisone injection, your doctor may insert a needle into the knee joint and remove or pull excess fluid from the joint. Doctors normally give less than three cortisone injections a year because of the possibility that excessive steroid injections may actually speed the process of joint deterioration.


Hyaluronic acid (HA) injections are designed to replenish the acid in your knee joint. These injections were recently approved for use in the United States. Used for years in Canada and Europe, this jelly-like medication reduces knee pain by deadening nerve endings in the knees. It also acts like natural cartilage by creating a shock absorber between the bones and easing the pain associated with weight bearing and joint movement. Hyaluronic acid is injected directly into the knee with a needle. It can produce relief for varying periods, but can be beneficial for at least three months.

Possible Complications of Knee Injections

Following the injection of cortisone or hyaluronic acid into the knee, there may occasionally be increased pain or an inflammatory reaction to the injected medication. These reactions usually occur within the first 24 to 48 hours after the injection and ice, elevation, and medications such as analgesic can help.

Injections into a joint must always be done under sterile conditions to minimize the possibility of infection. If an infection does occur after the knee has been injected, it must be dealt with promptly to avoid irreversible destruction of the joint cartilage. Pain greater than expected, swelling and/or redness of the knee joint or the development of a fever should raise concerns about an infection and be reported immediately to your doctor. Rapid diagnosis, intravenous antibiotic therapy, followed by surgical drainage of pus, removal of any infected debris, and washing the joint with sterile fluids is essential to the effective management of an infected knee.


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