Will your health insurance cover the cost of joint fluid replacement injections?
For many older Australians, the pain of aching joints and osteoarthritis can severely affect their quality of life. While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are several options available to help you manage the condition. One option is joint fluid replacement injections, sometimes referred to as viscosupplementation.
A joint fluid replacement injection could relieve the pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis in the affected joint for six months or more, and your private health fund may cover the cost of the procedure depending under the extras section of your policy.
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How will Joint fluid replacement injections be covered?
The cost of joint fluid replacement injections is covered through extras health insurance under medically prescribed devices and supports. As an example, AHM will cover Joint Fluid Injections to a maximum of $340 per year. The benefit payment will assist in covering the costs of fluid injections to joints including the knee, hip and shoulder, such as visco-supplemental treatments.
What are joint fluid replacement injections?
Joint fluid replacement injections involve replacing damaged joint fluid from an area affected by osteoarthritis with something called hyaluronan. Hyaluronan is a natural substance found in the synovial fluid of your joints. This fluid cushions and lubricates joints and reduces friction.
Unfortunately, the injections are not covered under the government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), so they can be quite expensive (several hundreds of dollars per course of injections) if no cover is provided by your private health insurer.
What are joint fluid replacement injections used to treat?
A joint fluid replacement injection eases the pain of osteoarthritis in a range of affected joints. These affected joints most commonly include the knee, hip and shoulder joints, but injections may be given to other parts of the body in some cases.
Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on joints and results when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of bones breaks down. This cartilage can break off into small pieces and end up in the synovial fluid, causing swelling and irritation. Discomfort and pain soon follow, but joint fluid replacement injections can often help reduce these symptoms.
Although this treatment doesn’t reverse the effects of arthritis, it can alleviate pain and swelling in affected joints for several months. Not only can this greatly improve your quality of life on a day-to-day basis, but it can also help delay any need to undergo joint replacement surgery.
Joint fluid replacement injections can be used to treat osteoarthritis pain in a wide range of cases, so your doctor will advise you if this treatment is appropriate in your situation. If you require long-term management of osteoarthritis pain, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a course of injections more than once a year.
Are there any side effects?
While all medicines can potentially have side effects, some patients may experience them and others may not. Side effects associated with joint fluid replacement injections are generally quite rare but can include the following:
- Mild pain and swelling around the site of the injection, which usually goes away within a few days
- A rash or hives and itching
- Headaches and dizziness
- Muscle cramps and swelling
- Breathing difficulties
Your doctor will be able to advise you about any potential side effects before beginning treatment. You should always seek medical attention if you experience any side effects after receiving a joint fluid replacement injection.