Summit Orthopedics orthobiologics specialist Andrew Clary, D.O., talks about orthobiologics and whether it is a good option for you.
Andrew Clary, D.O., uses orthobiologics regularly in his practice. “Some diagnoses we treat are very difficult to relieve with traditional modalities. Orthobiologics fills a void for certain conditions,” he said.
What is orthobiologics exactly? “Orthobiologics has been proved to relieve symptoms through large, controlled research studies,” Dr. Clary said. “It’s a really good option for someone who has a very specific subset of problems.”
One example is discogenic low-back pain, which is a condition with very few effective treatment options. Orthobiologics can be a permanent fix, Dr. Clary said. Orthobiologics is also effective at relieving facet-mediated pain, in our experience.
According to a survey of Summit patients who had intradiscal platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, when asked six months after the procedure, 90 percent of patients said that they’re happy with the results and that they would do it again.
How does PRP help with low back pain?
Although the exact mechanism is not completely understood, “From what we understand, PRP creates local irritation inside the disc, which promotes the patient’s own healing mechanism,” Dr. Clary said. “It activates the patient’s own immune system, which induces regeneration.”
Why isn’t orthobiologics covered by all insurances?
It’s relatively new, and good research into its effectiveness for the spine was published as recently as 2018. As time goes on and the technique continues to be proved, Dr. Clary said, more insurers will begin to cover it.
Dr. Clary cautions patients to make sure the provider they choose for PRP and orthobiologics is credentialed and licensed. “Lots of clinics or groups say they do orthobiologics, but they don’t have the necessary credentials, training, or expertise,” he said. “We have performed hundreds of these procedures for the spine already, and that’s after a focused fellowship and learning from world leaders in this growing field.”
What’s the recovery like? When will I notice results?
The recovery typically lasts about a week to return to baseline. Then after about six weeks, patients should start to make progress. “At three months, they should be noticing a difference, and at six months, 95 percent of the total benefit of the treatment will have happened,” Dr. Clary said.
Getting orthobiologic injections from a reputable provider is key. At Summit, Dr. Clary said, “We’ve done over 200 of these regenerative spine procedures, and we continue to perform them every month. We use advanced imaging to determine whether PRP is even an option, how much volume to use, and exactly where to place it.”
Very few practices in the Twin Cities are offering orthobiologics for low back pain, because it’s relatively complex and difficult to do well. Some of Dr. Clary’s patients even travel from other states. “You don’t want to do this with an unexperienced, uncredentialled provider,” he said. “At Summit, we get our patients through the whole process, before, during, and after the injections so we want this to work.”
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