Synvisc and Supartz are viscosupplementation treatments. They’re frequently used for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It’s caused by repetitive motion, wear and tear, and stress on the joints. It damages cartilage in the joints and causes pain and inflammation. It can also restrict the range of motion in your joints. Osteoarthritis in the knee can make it hard to stand, walk, or climb stairs, which can significantly affect your quality of life.

Symptoms are most likely to appear after age 40. It’s a progressive condition, so symptoms usually worsen over time.

If you haven’t had success with other therapies, your doctor may suggest a treatment called viscosupplementation. This is a procedure in which a gel-like substance called hyaluronic acid is injected into the joint. Hyaluronic acid mimics a naturally occurring substance in your joints. It’s designed to provide lubrication and help your bones move more smoothly. It may also relieve pain and discomfort.

To prepare for this procedure, any excess fluids must first be removed from the knee joint. A single needle is then used to inject the medication directly into the joint space. The procedure only takes a few minutes. After the procedure, you may have to limit some physical activity for a few days. For more information, read this article about viscosupplementation options.

Synvisc and Supartz are two brands of viscosupplementation. They both can be administered in your doctor’s office. The biggest difference between Synvisc and Supartz is in the number of injections needed.

Synvisc (hylan G-F 20) is given in three separate injections of 2 mL each. The injections are given one week apart. Synvisc-One is a version that can be given in a single dose of 6 mL. The advantage of Synvisc-One is that you probably won’t have to visit the doctor as often. This can help reduce inconvenience and hold costs down.

Supartz (sodium hyaluronate) is given in a series of three or five injections of 2.5 mL each. The injections are also usually given one week apart from each other.

The side effects of both Synvisc and Supartz are similar. You might have an allergic reaction to Synvisc or Supartz. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • itching
  • rash
  • hives
  • swelling of the face

Both products are manufactured using rooster and chicken combs (the fleshy growth on the top of their head). Because of these ingredients, tell your doctor if you’re allergic to egg products, feathers, or avian (bird) proteins.

Temporary pain and swelling at the injection site is also possible. Rare complications include painful fluid retention, infection, and bleeding.

It may take several weeks or even a few months to feel the full effect. Each of these medications can provide up to six months of symptom relief, including reduced pain and improved range of motion. Neither Synvisc nor Supartz have been shown to be significantly more effective than the other.

When it comes to the effectiveness of viscosupplementation in general, study results have been mixed. Some clinical trials conclude that the procedure results in minimal benefit, along with an increased risk of side effects. However, other trials have indicated improved symptoms for up to a year following the final injection. More studies are needed to properly gauge the effectiveness of viscosupplementation.

There’s no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are a variety of treatment options that may help relieve some symptoms. These include starting an exercise regimen, relieving stress on the joints, and losing weight.

Over-the-counter and prescription strength anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications may be helpful. Some people benefit from corticosteroid injections in the affected joints. Complementary therapies such as massage and chiropractic manipulation can also be useful.

If you’re considering viscosupplementation, discuss all your treatment options with your doctor. You may also want to check to see which treatments are covered under your health insurance plan.

Keep reading: Osteoarthritis medication list »