Hyaluronic Acid Injections for Knee Osteoarthritis: Has Utilization Among Medicare Beneficiaries Changed Between 2012 and 2018?

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2022 May 18;104(10):e43. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.21.00832. Epub 2021 Dec 13.


Background: The utilization of hyaluronic acid (HA) for the management of knee osteoarthritis (OA) remains controversial, and more information is needed regarding how its utilization and financial burden have changed over recent years. The purpose of our analysis was to evaluate changes in overall utilization and health-care costs associated with HA injections among Medicare beneficiaries over a contemporary time frame.

Methods: The 2012 to 2018 Medicare Fee-for-Service Provider Utilization and Payment Public Use Files (PUFs) were utilized for our analysis. Organized by Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes, these files capture 100% of Medicare Part B claims. Payment and utilization data were collected for all HCPCS codes corresponding to injection of an HA formulation. The number of services involving HA as well as the total cost of HA administration in 2020 U.S. dollars were tabulated. Mann-Kendall trend tests were used to evaluate trends in utilization for providers nationally and when segregated by specialty.

Results: Total HA utilization increased significantly from 2012 (n = 1,090,503) through 2018 (n = 1,209,489; p = 0.04). Although orthopaedic surgeons did not demonstrate significant changes in total utilization rates (p = 0.23), the average number of services per orthopaedic surgeon increased significantly (p = 0.02). Reflecting a substantial growth in the number of advanced practice providers (APPs) providing injections, there was a significant increase in utilization and associated costs among physician assistants (p < 0.01) and nurse practitioners (p < 0.01). Total costs associated with HA services increased significantly from $290.10 million to $325.02 million (p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Despite the 2013 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons clinical practice guideline recommending against the clinical utility of these injections, HA services continued to be widely implemented among Medicare beneficiaries. Although there were variations across specialties when evaluating overall utilization rates as well as rates per provider, APPs largely contributed to the increase seen in the U.S. over this study period. More data are needed to support continued implementation and spending on this low-value care.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Fee-for-Service Plans
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Medicare Part B*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / drug therapy
  • United States


  • Hyaluronic Acid