Ask Dr. Clary: How Do Regenerative Osteoarthritis Treatments Work?
Dr. Clary explains how regenerative osteoarthritis treatments can manage pain and improve function.
Historically, the treatments for osteoarthritis pain have been limited. Medical science does not have a cure for this condition, and there are gaps in medicine’s ability to manage osteoarthritic pain. Regenerative osteoarthritis treatments are an exciting medical advance promising to bridge this gap and deliver improved quality of life for osteoarthritic patients.
Traditional management of osteoarthritis
Traditionally, osteoarthritis is managed with conservative approaches, including exercise, weight loss, anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid injections to keep pain at bay. When conservative treatments are no longer effective, joint replacement surgeries are offered. But joint replacements have a limited life span and are not an ideal option for younger patients. Advances in regenerative medicine present a new exciting option to surgery. These treatments pair effective pain relief with fewer side effects than some other arthritis treatments. Regenerative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Clary discusses advances and advantages of this emerging new area of medicine.
“Our treatment goals for arthritis patients are to improve function and reduce pain,” explains Dr. Clary. “Regenerative osteoarthritis treatments can do both. In addition, some studies suggest that regenerative osteoarthritis treatments may even regrow damaged tissue. Another advantage of regenerative therapies is that they can deliver the benefits of steroid injections or surgery without the risks of either.”
Regenerative medicine treats a variety of conditions
“Regenerative medicine can help with a range of diagnoses; osteoarthritis is only one,” notes Dr. Clary. “Research indicates that regenerative treatments can also help with bone that hasn’t quite healed the right way, with nonhealing joints, and with disc pain. Significantly, regenerative therapies offer new options at a point in disease progression where we didn’t otherwise have good treatments available. And the side effects of regenerative treatments are negligible.”
Regenerative osteoarthritis treatments have fewer side effects
Steroid injections are a common treatment for osteoarthritis. “The side effects of steroid injections can be concerning,” says Dr. Clary. “Steroids carry risks, including increased blood sugars and a raised risk for adrenal gland or hormone changes. Steroids can also potentially weaken tissue at the injection site. For example, studies tell us that when we inject steroids into inflamed tendons, the steroids can weaken tendon tissue and eventually put it at risk to rupture.”
By comparison, regenerative techniques don’t have systemic side effects that alter blood sugars. “And,” Dr. Clary points out, “regenerative therapies actually promote healing at the injection site without causing tissue to weaken. These are significant advantages of regenerative osteoarthritic treatments over steroid treatments.
Regenerative osteoarthritis treatments have few risks
Any procedure comes with some risks. “Regenerative medicine requires us to draw blood for platelet-rich plasma treatments, or to take marrow cells from the pelvic bone for other treatments,” explains Dr. Clary. “These procedures are at times uncomfortable, but the risks are very low. The two notable risks with regenerative osteoarthritis medicine treatments are bleeding and infection—but both are very rare.”
Patients who are good candidates for regenerative osteoarthritis treatments
Osteoarthritis patients are good candidates for regenerative medicine when their arthritis is not so severe that the only option is a joint replacement. “There are different grades with arthritis that refer to the degree of bone on bone and the amount of wear and tear inside a joint,” notes Dr. Clary. “We see the best regenerative medicine outcomes in patients with arthritis that is between a grade 2 and up to a grade 3 and a half in severity. Once a patient’s arthritis reaches grade 4, the condition is too severe for that patient to be a good candidate for regenerative medicine.”
What you can expect during a regenerative osteoarthritis treatment
“These are convenient outpatient procedures,” says Dr. Clary. “At Summit, we take an exclusive, tailored approach with each patient. From the harvesting process through the regenerative medicine preparation, guided injection, and recovery, these therapies require no more than two hours to complete. When appropriate, we’ll provide you with a prescription in advance of the procedure to help relieve any soreness or discomfort afterward. We are also developing a post-procedure therapy program for patients to optimize the results. We take a personal approach, working with you to achieve the best possible outcome.
“Because regenerative treatments are an emerging area of medicine, the research literature is constantly being updated,” explains Dr. Clary. “At Summit, we constantly monitor new research reports. Our physicians are trained by national leaders in this field. We are committed to using the most advanced technology and treatments to manage and control osteoarthritis.”
When to seek treatment for your arthritis
Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of only two surgery centers nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
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