For years, the only long-term treatment option for osteoarthritis or bone on bone joint problems was joint replacement...typically knees and hips. Then, viscosupplementation came along, where hyaluronic acid was injected into the joint capsule. This lubricated the knee to facilitate better movement and relieve pain, but it wasn’t a long-term solution.
In my last article, An Alarming Trend In Joint Replacement Surgeries, I talked about how knee replacement surgeries alone are projected to increase to 3.48 million procedures per year by 2030. This is a scary prospect given the risks of this type of surgery...anesthesia reactions, infections, blood clots, rejection of the artificial joint, just to name a few.
Even with all these risks, many people still don’t know that there is another option and are continuing to go under the knife daily.
But, thanks to advancements in modern medicine, stem cell therapy is emerging as a viable candidate to stop that alarming statistic in its tracks.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?
Stem cells are essentially the “building blocks” of our body. Stem cells are found in our bone marrow, blood, and adipose tissues. They come from the same family of cells that form joints, cartilage, menisci, ligaments, muscles and bone.
As we age, our bodies continue to produce these stem cells to treat and maintain our bodily systems. By extracting these stem cells from a patient’s own adipose tissue and injecting them into the damaged joint, new cartilage can actually be regenerated.
How We Know It Works?
In a 2008 study by Dr. Christopher Centeno reported in the The American Journal of Case Reports, mesenchymal stem cells were obtained and injected into a patient’s knee along with autologous platelet lysate to enhance growth. MRI imaging was done pre and post treatment to analyze changes.
The results showed that the cartilage had increased in volume, the size of the defect in the cartilage had been reduced and pain in the patient had decreased to 0 on a scale of 10.
While a patient will typically require multiple treatments to “build up” cartilage, this study shows that it can be done.
What is Stopping People From Getting Stem Cell Therapy as an Alternative to Joint Replacement?
Knowledge - As we already discussed, many people are not aware of stem cell therapy as an alternative to joint replacement.
Doctors - Orthopedic surgeons perform joint replacement surgery, so they will recommend what they know and what they do. Medical practices are also a business. According to Medical Group Management Association’s 2015 Provider Compensation and Production Survey Report, general orthopedic surgeons make an average of $421,000 per year. So, is it surprising that they wouldn't recommend surgery?
Insurance - Insurance companies haven’t caught up with this advancement in medicine, so these treatments aren’t covered yet. This could be another reason why doctors may not be recommending it at this time.
Benefits of Stem Cell Therapy
Relatively Quick Procedure - Doctors that perform this treatment have the equipment and labs in-house, so the outpatient procedure can be done in a few hours.
Reasonable Cost - Many doctors will do a free initial consultation and exam. Treatment will typically cost between $1,500 to $8,000, depending on your specific situation. Finance options are usually available also.
Natural Therapy - Each patient’s own stem cells are being used for the treatment. No synthetic or donor cells are used.
Minimal Risk - While there is a small risk of infection from the injection, this is very uncommon.
Minimal Recovery Time - Unlike surgery, with stem cell therapy, the patient walks in and out of the procedure on their own. They will typically take it easy for a few days. In a few weeks, they can begin to increase their activity levels and return to normal.
It is the responsibility of each patient to do their due diligence and research alternative treatments before opting for surgery.
The promise of stem cell therapy means that patients will have a more natural and less risky alternative to joint replacement surgery.
Let’s hope that more doctors and insurance companies finally catch on and realize that this is the medicine of the future.
As with any form of medical treatment, you should consult with your physician before embarking on any treatment plan. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be deemed accurate for the purposes of diagnosing your particular medical condition