Healthy Tahoe: Regenerative medicine aids body’s natural healing process
If you’re dealing with arthritis or an injury, regenerative medicine may be an option to help stimulate healing. The goal of this type of treatment is to speed up and facilitate your own body’s healing potential. Techniques include injections of platelet-rich plasma or stem cell concentrates. Conditions that may benefit from regenerative medicine include:
• Tendon or ligament partial tears or tendinitis in the body’s extremities, such as the rotator cuff, elbow, Achilles tendon, ACL, or meniscus
• Joint arthritis including shoulders, thumbs, hips, knees, and ankles
Regenerative medicine can be provided by a physiatrist (a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor who specializes in interventional sports medicine). To determine whether you’re a candidate, your physiatrist will evaluate you based on a physical exam, imaging studies, and discussion of previous treatments.
How Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Works
When you’re injured, your body responds by delivering platelet cells to the hurt area. These platelets begin the repair process by forming a clot at the site of injury, which prevents further bleeding and serves as a scaffold for new tissue to grow. The platelets release growth factors to attract the cells, such as stem cells, necessary to heal the area.
PRP therapy aids the body’s natural healing process by delivering a higher concentration of platelets directly to the area of need. PRP is formed by drawing a sample of your blood, which is centrifuged to concentrate the blood platelets. The PRP from your own body is precisely injected with ultrasound guidance into the injured tissue. Once the platelets are injected, they release growth factors and other healing factors and form a scaffolding for deposit of new tissue. Stem cells are also attracted to the area, which facilitates the healing process.
This process has been shown to be safe and effective and is commonly used to treat tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries as well as arthritis. PRP therapy is a fairly simple procedure, requiring less than an hour in the clinic. Most conditions require only one PRP injection. It may take three to five months to notice improvements. But the benefits last much longer than many other forms of treatment, since PRP injections fix the problem rather than mask the symptoms.
Understanding Stem Cell Procedures
Stem cells help heal injured tissues such as bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. Following some injuries, our bodies struggle to heal, particularly as we get older. In regenerative medicine, stem cell procedures deliver a high concentration of stem cells to the injured area, aiding your body’s ability to heal naturally.
One source of stem cells is found in the bone marrow in the back of the pelvis bone. The bone marrow is rich in mesenchymal stem cells, which help heal damaged tissues. In this procedure, a small sample of bone marrow is taken from the back of the pelvis bone with a needle. The stem cells are isolated from the marrow sample in a centrifuge and injected directly into the injured area using advanced ultrasound imaging guidance. Patients experience little downtime following this procedure and avoid the long, painful rehabilitation periods that often follow surgery.
Research is ongoing as to how regenerative medicine can treat a variety of conditions. Studies show promising results for tendon injuries, ligament injuries, and knee arthritis. Talk with your doctor about whether this type of treatment might be an option for you.
Dr. Alison Ganong is a board-certified physical medicine physician with Tahoe Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, as well as a rehabilitation and sports medicine specialist with Barton Health. To learn more about regenerative medicine treatments in South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Carson City, visit BartonOrthopedicsAndWellness.com or call 530-543-5554.
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