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Rooster comb injections are a temporary treatment for mildly or moderately arthritic knees. These involve injecting special fluid, called hyaluronan, to replace some of the joint’s missing synovial fluid. When this viscosupplementation occurs, some patients have significant pain reduction that may last for up to a year. The interesting name refers to the many forms of hyaluronan that were or are still made from the combs of roosters. Patients who have allergies to eggs or chickens may not be good candidates for some types of these injections, and other people may be ineligible for viscosupplementation because insurers don’t always cover it.
This treatment generally won’t work for people with severe arthritis, but it may be a viable alternative for those with mild or moderate versions of the disease. Presently, these injections are only available for arthritic knees, though at some point in the future, hyaluronan might be considered for the treatment of other joints. The procedures for giving the injections often follow the same course: over several weeks, a number of injections of the sticky and thick fluid are given into the knee space.
While initial response to an injection is often soreness and stiffness, over time, rooster comb injections may reduce pain in the knees and also increase the ability to move the knee without soreness. The precise number of injections that can produce this effect varies by patient. Some individuals with mild arthritis might only require one to two injections to gain relief, but other patients with more pronounced pain could need many more.
Despite its benefits, hyaluronan doesn't cure arthritis and is not always effective. Some patients don’t experience relief with the shots, and even when they do work, the respite from pain fades over time, and usually isn’t expected to last more than a year. This measure is therefore considered temporary, and progressive arthritis of the knee eventually requires other measures, including surgery.
Another point of concern is that rooster comb injections can cause extremely dangerous reactions in people who are allergic to chicken or eggs. There are presently one or two formulas that don’t pose this risk, however. It is exceptionally important that people alert their healthcare providers to allergies of this type so that a synovial fluid replacement shot doesn’t create anaphylactic shock.
Since viscosupplementation with hyaluronan has only received government approval in the US recently, many may find their insurance companies will not cover these treatments. If, in time, these injections are more frequently used, more insurers might be willing to pay for them. In a way, companies that choose to cover viscosupplementation may be making an economically sound decision because this procedure can put off much more in-depth treatments, such as surgery, that are significantly more costly.