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Unraveling the confusion behind hyaluronic acid efficacy in the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis

Authors Miller LE, Altman R, McIntyre L

Received 16 April 2016

Accepted for publication 3 May 2016

Published 17 June 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 421—423


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael E Schatman

Larry E Miller,1 Roy D Altman,2 Louis F McIntyre3

1Miller Scientific Consulting, Inc., Asheville, NC, 2Department of Rheumatology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, 3Northwell Physician Partners, Sleepy Hollow, NY, USA

Abstract: Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a commonly prescribed treatment for knee pain resulting from osteoarthritis (OA). Although numerous HA products have been approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration, the efficacy of HA injections for knee OA remains disputed with meta-analyses and societal clinical guidelines drawing disparate conclusions. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recently published a best-evidence systematic review and concluded that available data did not support the routine use of HA for knee OA. The purpose of the current article is to highlight issues that confound interpretation of meta-analyses on HA for knee OA, to provide realistic estimates of the true efficacy of HA injections in knee OA, and to provide commentary on the methods and conclusions from the AAOS systematic review. In general, the clinical benefit of HA is underestimated using conventional meta-analytic techniques. When accounting for differential control group effects in HA studies, it can be reasonably concluded that HA injections may be beneficial to an appreciable number of patients with knee OA. In addition, the systematic review methodology used by AAOS was questionable due to exclusion of numerous relevant studies and inclusion of studies that used HAs not approved for use in the US, both of which underestimated the true efficacy of HA injections. Overall, the efficacy of HA injections for knee OA is likely better than previously reported. Future clinical trials and meta-analyses should account for differential control group effects in order to avoid the continued confusion surrounding HA injection efficacy.

Keywords: effect size, hyaluronic acid, injection, knee, minimal important difference, osteoarthritis

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