There is a rise in knee osteoarthritis, particularly in the aging U.S. population. A practice known as hyaluronic acid (HA) injections is used for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis; however, its efficacy and cost-effectiveness are being debated. In this study, the utilization and costs of HA injections were evaluated during the 12 months preceding total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and the usage of HA injections in end-stage knee osteoarthitis management in relation to other treatments was also evaluated. Truven Health Analytics databases (MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters and Medicare Supplemental and Cooridination of Benefits) were reviewed in order to find patients who underwent TKA from 2005 to 2012. All patient-specific osteoarthritis-related health care, including medications, corticosteroid injections, HA injections, imaging, and office visits, as well as payment information were analyzed during the 12 months before TKA.
244,059 patients met the inclusion criteria, and 35,935 (14.7%) of them had > 1 HA injections in the 12-month period. HA accounted for 16.4% of all payments related to osteoarthritis, coming in second only to imaging studies (18.2%). In terms of treatment-specific payments, HA injections accounted for 25.2%, a rate higher than that of any other treatment. Compared with patients who did not receive HA injections, patients who had the injections were significantly more likely to receive additional knee osteoarthritis-related treatment.
HA injections are still frequently used to treat osteoarthritis of the knee even though there have been numerous studies that question their efficacy and cost-effectiveness for that purpose. Based on the results and a lack of data supporting the effectiveness of HA injections in the current cost-conscious health-care climate, the authors of this study concluded that decreasing the use of HA injections for patients with end-stage knee osteoarthritis may substantially reduce cost without adversely affecting the quality of care.