New Procedure May Reduce Knee Pain

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Many people deal with knee pain and go through a variety of ways to treat it. Now, a new procedure could prevent surgery and still keep you active.

“I see it with golfers here all the time,” Mark Borden said as he walks along a local golf course. “I don’t want to be one of those guys that’s walking around with a new hip or a new knee, in my 50s.”

Borden, 54, has knee pain. It’s not all the time, but enough that he notices it.

“Just basic wear and tear that’s caught up with me,” Borden said. “When I’m carrying my bag on my back, it causes a lot of pain in the left knee. Right now, the only pain I have is going up and down steps.”

He doesn’t want steroid injections, and he doesn’t want a knee replacement. All he wants is to stay active without either.

Instead, Borden is going with a series of three injections called Synvisc. The fluid is derived from the combs of roosters, where there’s a high concentration of hyaluronic acid.

“Hyaluronic acid is a substance your knee naturally makes,” Dr. Sam Akhavan, an orthopedist at Allegheny General Hospital, said.

It acts as a lubricant for your joints. It allows things to glide and reduces inflammation. It may even help the body make more of its own.

“What we try to do is pick patients that do not have too much arthritis, but yet, you know, have a little bit. Those are the people that probably have the most benefit from it. With his activity level, and the mild degree of arthritis that he has, I think he would do very, very well from these injections,” Dr. Akhavan said. “This is another tool that we have in an effort to try to avoid more extensive surgery, such as a knee replacement.”

“If that’s the worst part of it, that’s not so bad,” Borden said after the first shot.

He wants to play golf right away, but he has to take it easy for at least 24 hours.

While you can do the treatment with just one shot, the amount of fluid required can be uncomfortable.

Since the idea is to kick-start the body’s own production of lubricant, three injections, a week apart, give more of a chance for this to happen.

“Typically most of my patients, by the third shot are starting to see some difference, and typically when I see them back four weeks later, that’s when I see most of the difference,” Dr. Akhavan said.

“I have some patients where we do one series and that’s all we do, and I have some patients where we do a series and it doesn’t really work. So, it’s variable who it’s going to work with, but you know, I think six months is a reasonable amount of time to get good pain relief.”

It’s important to mention that about two percent of people can be allergic to the fluid.

Borden felt fine except for extreme dizziness for a few days after each injection, which is something essentially unheard of.

“This is actually the first time I’ve heard of someone having vertigo after this,” Dr. Akhavan said. “We’ll keep an eye on it, and if it continues, I may have him evaluated to see if there’s anything else going on.”

A week after his last dose, Borden was back to his old self.

“No crunching, no grinding,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Wow, I haven’t carried my bag in six months. I can carry my bag again.’”

When he goes for a check up in a few weeks, and again in a few months, he hopes he won’t need any more shots, or a knee replacement for many years.


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Allegheny General Hospital

  • Robin

    i was really looking forward to this story because I have very bad knees. I was disappointed to see that it was about Synisc, a treatment I started having over 6 years ago.

    I also do not think that an allergy is the only thing that can cause a reaction to it. I had several treatments before I had a bad reaction to one. My knee swelled up to the point where I could not move it and it was extremely painful.

    After speaking with a different orthopedist I was told that Synvisc seems to run a higher risk of adverse reaction than other brands of the same type of treatment.

    • Denise

      Hi Robin, I thougt I wrote this comment it was so similar to my experience. I too, had a severe reaction to my first injection in my right knee after getting several injections in my left knee for many years. (never took pain away completely though) I could not move my leg without assistance and it was so…. painful all night long. I called Doctor on call and went to Presby Emergency to have knee drained and what a relief! No more treatments for me in either knee ever again. Oh well, on to a knee replacement .

    • Diane

      I wanted this injection for my knee. I found out it costs over $1,000 per injection and your insurance probably will not pay for it.

  • Chas

    I tried those shots and they didn’t work for me.The doctor was optimistic they would work but made them feel worse. Then he said WELL it doesn’t work for everybody.
    Then got sort of mad at me and ask why I don’t just take celebrex.. Still no relief.

  • Deb

    I also was disappointed in this story. As a 51 year old woman with severe osteoarthritis of the knees, I keep hoping for an alternative to total knee replacements. Synvisc has been available for many years so it is NOT a new treatment. This was just a misleading headline to get a website hit!

  • Pam Fedoush Pastiva

    I had arthritis in my knees for over 14 years. I has steroid injections also the Synvisc injections. None of them lasted more than a month. I also was taking Celebrex for a long time (not good). I was 52 when I had my right knee done and 53 when the left knee was done. I was glad I had a Orthopaedic surgeon who was willing to to the surgeries.

  • sam

    I too was excited to watch this from ad built up on alternate to knee replacement, but disappointed with this story. As most knee problem patient are aware of these for nearly six to eight years.

    May be story teller,should do an indepth research, and look at the current ness and news value. This is at least six year old news. Is KDKA , that behind

  • Jacqueline Schmek

    I am now on my second series of Synvisc in both of my knees. The first series of three shots lasted for almost three years. I received the second series of shots in January and right now I have no knee pain. I truly believe it depends on the patient and how bad your knees are. It certainly has helped me.

  • shirley


  • Lori

    My mother was also extremely disappointed in this story! As someone who suffers from severe knee pain, she changed her schedule to be home in time to see this story. She was shocked and disappointed to find out that it was old news, and had actully been done before. I would ask that you be more careful in raising the hopes of long-time pain sufferers with such misleading information.

  • Mary Beerman

    Yep, nothing new here. KDKA should be ashamed to report this as a new treatment and get people in pain excited about it.

  • cybil

    Hi I am thinking about get these shots could someone time me is it worth it and I’m i wasthing my money I think is all about getting paid anyway.

  • cybil

    could someone tell me is it worth getting or will I be wasthing my money sorry for the mispell.

    • Fran

      everyone reacts to it differently….me it only lasted for a little while then I got the cortesone shots as I cannot have the operation due to COPD. So the only thing I can do is the cortesone shots every 3 months.

  • jj

    What a disappointment! There is nothing new here. I actually have been getting these injections 5 weeks in a row twice a year for 5 years now. They really did initially help more than they do now. As my arthritis gets worse, the treatment doesn’t bring as much relief for as long! I am 53 and have worse knees than most 90 year old! By the way, my insurance does cover the injections because the cost is less than a knee replacement for a “young” person – knee replacements only last about 10 years and younger people will need it done several times! Again, I was disappointed in this story because I was so hopeful of something new!

  • Donna

    This is definitely not a new procedure. Very disappointed!

  • phyllis

    So Not new, I have been getting these injections for over 10 years. DAH. I to am disappointed. You guys are really slipping. Who did the research on this. Maybe it was just new to you.
    To Cybil, I found it absolutely worth it. I alternate, one knee every six months. If it weren’t for the shots I would been forced to have surgery. I am ready for the nest knee to be done again. It also works for my 93 year old mom.
    Good luck I hope it works for you also.

  • J. Jacobs

    disappointed also. missed it on the news so made a special attempt to look it up only to find it was about synvisc. Not a new treatment.

  • Bryan

    What a waste this story was since this is not a new treatment. I tired this treatment and it did not work for me at all. I went on to have my right kneee replaced and it doesn’t bend the way it should so I’m worst off now than I was before.

  • craig

    Synvisc almost killed me and destroyed my health! This is not safe, and so many have had horrible reactions to this. Go read other people’s stories at
    synviscsurvivor.blogspot (dot) com This is BAD stuff, and not worth the risk. Each time you have one of these shots, your chance of an adverse even goes UP! IT’S NOT WORTH THE RISK!!!

  • Lee Ann

    Five years ago, I had a series of 3 shots of Synvisc. I wish I had known what it would do to my health and my life. I had a systemic chemical reaction from them from the formaldehyde which is in it and not listed. There are other chemicals as well. I am also allergic to eggs (although this was not discussed before injecting me). I now suffer from RADS (respiratory airway dysfunction syndrome), asthma, esophagus problems, chemical sensitivity, hot flashes, and burning in my extremities and much more since having these shots. I have been hospitalizednumerous times for breathing problems and am now on a breathing machine. I had none of these problems prior to the injections.

    These shots are dangerous and should be taken off the market. Their sales have been down so they are re-promoting it as a ‘new’ procedure?? The word is out on this product…….beware.

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