Hylan versus corticosteroid versus placebo for treatment of basal joint arthritis: a prospective, randomized, double-blinded clinical trial

J Hand Surg Am. 2008 Jan;33(1):40-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2007.10.009.


Purpose: Conservative, nonsurgical therapies for basal joint osteoarthritis, such as thumb spica splinting and intra-articular corticosteroid injections, remain the mainstays for symptomatic treatment. This study compares intra-articular hylan, corticosteroid, and placebo injections with regard to pain relief, strength, symptom improvement, and metrics of manual function in a randomized, controlled, double-blinded study.

Methods: Sixty patients with basal joint arthritis were randomized to receive 2 intra-articular hylan injections 1 week apart, 1 placebo injection followed by 1 corticosteroid injection 1 week later, or 2 placebo injections 1 week apart. Patients were evaluated at 2, 4, 12, and 26 weeks and assessed with Visual Analog Scale pain scores, strength measures, difference scores, Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) scores, and range of motion measurements.

Results: All groups reported pain relief at 2 weeks. The steroid and placebo groups had significantly less pain at week 4 compared with baseline, but this effect disappeared by week 12. Only hylan injections continued to provide pain relief at 12 and 26 weeks compared with baseline. There were no significant differences in pain between groups at any time. At 12 and 26 weeks, the hylan group had improved grip strength compared with baseline, whereas the steroid and placebo groups were weaker. At 4 weeks, the steroid group reported in the difference score a greater improvement in symptoms (68%) compared with the hylan (44%) and placebo (50%) groups. Whereas at 26 weeks the hylan group reported the largest improvement in symptoms (68%), this was not statistically different from the placebo (47%) and steroid (58%) groups. There were no significant differences in Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand scores or range of motion among the groups. There were no complications from any injection.

Conclusions: There were no statistically significant differences among hylan, steroid, and placebo injections for most of the outcome measures at any of the follow-up time points. However, based on the durable relief of pain, improved grip strength, and the long-term improvement in symptoms compared with preinjection values, hylan injections should be considered in the management of basal joint arthritis of the thumb.

Type of study/level of evidence: Therapeutic I.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betamethasone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Betamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Biocompatible Materials / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Finger Joint*
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • Hyaluronic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Injections, Intra-Articular
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Thumb
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Glucocorticoids
  • hylan
  • betamethasone acetate phosphate
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Betamethasone