About osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that can affect any joint in the body.  For us, that includes the ankle joint, foot joints, and even toe joints.  Being the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis affects millions of people around the world. Individuals in their mid-to-late forties tend to have a higher risk of developing osteoarthrosis.  Physiologically, osteoarthritis is resulted from the stress on the joint, repetitive movements and wear and tear. The damaged cartilage in the joint will cause inflammation and pain. At the same time, it restricts the range of motion in the joints. Being a progressive condition, the symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to worsen over time. As the condition deteriorates, patients may find it hard to climb stairs, walk, or even stand. Thankfully, there are many treatment options for osteoarthritis, including prescription medications, steroid injections, custom molded orthotics, physical therapy, and lifestyle modification (e.g. weight reduction). Apart from that, viscosupplementation injectables such as Supartz or Synvisc are also used as for the symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis.

About viscosupplementation

While conservative treatments are the mainstay of treatment for osteoarthritis, they may not work on all patients. For patients who have not had success with these treatments, doctors may utilize viscosupplementation in the form of Supartz or Synvisc as second-line treatments.

Viscosupplementation is a treatment that has a cushioning effect on the joint. It is often formulated as injectables, which contain fluid with a gel consistency. Having shock-absorbing properties, the gel-like fluid allows smooth movements between the bones. As a result, pain is significantly reduced, and patient mobility is improved. Supartz and Synvisc are some of the viscosupplementation injectables commonly used in the management of osteoarthritis pain. As with all viscosupplementation injectables, Supartz and Synvisc are designed as symptomatic treatments. They do not cure the underlying causes of osteoarthritis, nor do they regenerate the knee cartilage.

Using a needle, the hyaluronic acid gel is injected into the joint space. It typically takes several minutes to complete the procedure. After injecting viscosupplements, patients should avoid physical activities for several days. Both Supartz and Synvisc injections should be administered by qualified and licensed doctors.

Supartz vs. Synvisc: how are they similar and different?

Both Supartz and Synvisc are formulated with hyaluronic acid (or more specifically, hylan G-F 20 and sodium hyaluronate), a compound that mimics the actions of a natural substance in the joint. Having similar modes of action, they lubricate the joints, helping the bones to move smoothly. This subsequently reduces discomfort and pain.  Supartz and Synvisc also have a similar duration of action, lasting for approximately 6 months. Synvisc seems to have equivalent efficacy to Supartz (neither of the injections is more superior to the other).  Perhaps the biggest difference between the two formulations is number of injections required. Supartz is usually given in 3 to 5 injections consecutively. In contrast, Synvisc is typically given in 3 separate injections.

What are the side effects of Synvisc and Supartz?

Both Synvisc and Supartz have a similar side effect profile. After injection, patients may experience temporary pain and swelling at the site of injection. However, these symptoms tend to be short lived and self-limiting in nature. Synvisc and Supartz are sourced from rooster combs; therefore, they should not be used in those with a known allergy to avian proteins, feathers, and/or egg products.

The takeaway

The progression of ankle, foot, and toe osteoarthritis can lead to the inability to walk, stand, or even develop difficulty wearing shoes.  This can significantly disrupt the daily functioning of patients. Current treatment modalities often can be used to manage the condition. Unfortunately, they do not always work. Being the second line treatment of osteoarthritis, viscosupplements such as Supartz and Synvisc effectively reduce pain, providing long lasting symptomatic relief. Supartz and Synvisc are equally effective in the symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis. While there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, it is possible to relieve its associated symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.