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The Good Kind of Grease


By: Miriam Landru

            What comes first? The rooster or the relief?

            In the case of using actual rooster grease to combat arthritis, it’s the former.

            Dr. Brad Broussard of Cape Fear Orthopedics is an advocate of the practice, injecting it (or a synthetic version made from bacteria) into the patient in order to fight the painful abnormality of osteoarthritis, which occurs when cartilage surrounding your bone and the synovial fluid that comes along with it is all but lost. The “grease” which effectively replaces the synovial fluid, prolongs the need for a knee replacement due to the impact of osteoarthritis.

What exactly is rooster grease?

            Hyaluronic acid is found in rooster combs, the fleshy crest on top of the heads of the fowl. Studies were first conducted using the acid in 1934 within the laboratories of Columbia University by biochemist Dr. Karl Myer.

            First, he discovered the substance in cow eyes. However, this process was more difficult to come by and to utilize in the laboratory. Then in the early 1940’s, a Hungarian scientist, Dr. Endre Balazs, discovered how to extract hyaluronic acid from rooster combs.

            In mammals, including humans, the substance is found in the joint fluid in which it cushions the bone. And in 1980, the compound began to be used on humans suffering from osteoarthritis in the knees.

            Today, a synthetic, hypoallergenic option is used at Cape Fear Orthopedics, yet it still carries the funny moniker.

Rx: Grease

            Dr. Broussard, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, has been injecting the fluid into problem knees for nearly 15 years. “I have had great success,” Dr. Broussard said. However, he maintains that it will not alleviate the need for a future knee replacement. “It buys the patient time. I ran one man for 12 years on this stuff and it got him to retirement.”

            The “grease,” FDA approved only for the knees, is still available in its original form, yet two popular hypoallergenic options are derived from bacteria:

Synvisc-One and Euflexxa. Both are used at the expansive and well-equipped Ferncreek Drive location of Cape Fear Orthopedics. “With these versions, a patient need not worry about having a chicken, egg or feather allergy,” explained Dr. Broussard.

            Treatment is usually twice a year, though some patients can go a year or more in between treatments. However, there are always those cases that the osteoarthritis in the knee joint is more severe and then a patient may receive injections more frequently.

            Osteoarthritis is hereditary and can inflict pain at any age. Dr. Broussard had a 37-year-old patient who received a knee replacement who had been undergoing the injection treatment for nearly 10 years. It can still be used on the very elderly, but according to Dr. Broussard, “they have to have some cartilage left, it can’t be bone on bone.”

            Dr. Broussard’s hope and proof is that the treatment can temporize the symptoms of osteoarthritis and provide pain relief for all patients.