Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a commonly prescribed intra-articular (IA) therapy for knee osteoarthritis (OA). While a single series of IA-HA has been well studied, the efficacy and safety of repeated courses of IA-HA injection therapy in knee OA patients have not been evaluated as frequently.
A literature search was conducted using MEDLINE, EMBASE and PubMed databases. The primary outcome measure was knee pain reduction after each treatment course and/or last reported follow-up visit. Secondary outcomes were treatment-related adverse events (AEs) and serious adverse events (SAEs).
A total of 17 articles (7 RCTs and 10 cohort studies) met the pre-defined inclusion criteria. Of the RCTs, six were double-blind with two trials including open label extension studies, and one was single-blind. Studies ranged from investigating a single reinjection cycle to 4 repeat injection cycles. Eleven studies evaluated 1 reinjection, five studies evaluated ≥ 2 repeated courses of IA-HA, and one study allowed either 1 or 2 repeated courses. All studies reported pain reduction from baseline in the IA-HA treatment group throughout the initial treatment cycle, and either sustained or further reduced pain throughout the repeated courses of treatment. The study with the longest follow-up repeated IA-HA injection every 6 months for 25 months. Pain decreased after the first course and continued to decrease until the end of the study, with an approximate 55% reduction in pain compared to baseline. Common AEs were joint swelling and arthralgia; there were no reported SAEs. All repeated courses were well tolerated, and the number of documented AEs and SAEs was similar to the primary injection regimens.
Repeated courses of IA-HA injections are an effective and safe treatment for knee OA. Repeat courses were demonstrated to maintain or further improve pain reduction while introducing no increased safety risk.