OBJECTIVE--To determine the safety and efficacy of intra-articular injections of hyaluronan in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee. METHODS--A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial was carried out on 91 patients with radiologically confirmed osteoarthritis of the knee who were recruited from the outpatient clinics. RESULTS--It was found that weekly intraarticular injections of 20 mg of hyaluronan of M(r) = 750,000 (Hyalgan) in 2 ml of buffered saline performed no better than the inert vehicle alone over a five week period. The principal side effects of a transient increase in pain and swelling in the affected knee was observed in 47% of the treatment group compared with 22% of the placebo group. A few patients with radiologically mild disease treated with Hyalgan appeared to experience medium to long-term symptomatic improvement over matched placebo controls as judged by a delayed return to previous NSAID therapy or analgesia other than paracetamol. Patient numbers in the survival groups, however, were too small to be meaningful. CONCLUSION--It is concluded that intraarticular administration of this preparation of 750 kD hyaluronan offers no significant benefit over placebo during a five week treatment period, but incurs a significantly higher morbidity, and therefore has no place in the routine treatment of osteoarthritis.
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