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Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative Medicine: Aiding Your 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 regenerate body tissue and techniques can include injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cells. Conditions that may benefit from regenerative medicine include:

  • Rotator cuff partial tears
  • Tennis elbow
  • Achilles tendon problems
  • ACL or meniscus issues
  • Spine and back pain
  • Tendon or ligament partial tears or tendinitis in the body's extremities
  • Joint arthritis including shoulders, thumbs, hips, knees, and ankles

Regenerative medicine can be provided by a physiatrist—a physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor. To determine if you’re a candidate for regenerative medicine, 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 injured area. These platelets begin the repair process by forming a clot in the injured area, 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 is then injected back into the injured area. 
In addition to being safe and effective, 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 up to three months to notice improvements, but the benefits last much longer than many other forms of treatment since PRP injections are fixing the problem rather than masking 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 bone marrow found in the hip bone. The bone marrow is rich in mesenchymal stem cells, which help heal damaged tissues. In this procedure, a small bone marrow sample is taken from the hip through a needle. The stem cells are isolated from the marrow sample in a centrifuge and injected directly into the injured area using advanced imaging guidance. Patients experience little downtime following this procedure and avoid the long, painful rehabilitation periods that can follow surgery.

Research is ongoing as to how regenerative medicine can treat a variety of conditions. Studies show promising results for tendon injuries, muscle strains and knee arthritis in particular. Talk with your care provider whether this type of treatment might be an option for you.

Dr. Alison Ganong is a Tahoe Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physician with Barton Health. Dr. Ganong will host a free Wellness Webinar on Thursday, April 22 at 5pm. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at BartonHealth.org/Lecture. Learn more about Dr. Ganong’s Regenerative Medicine treatments at Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Carson City, by visiting BartonOrthopedicsAndWellness.com or calling 530.543.5554.