According to the Mayo Clinic, the field of regenerative medicine has the potential to fully heal damaged tissue. Organ and bone marrow transplants have saved lives for decades so regenerative medicine is not a new concept. Researchers have discovered how to harness the body’s own healing process and target areas of need.
Olympia Orthopaedic Associates are on the cutting edge of this medical technology. PRP, or Platelet Rich Plasma, injections are now available to patients in the Sports Medicine Clinic at OOA. A patient has his or her own blood drawn in the clinic. The blood is then placed in a centrifuge, a machine that rapidly spins the blood to separate it into plasma, white blood cells and red blood cells. Separating the contents allows collection of a more concentrated portion of the blood that is responsible for tissue repair and healing. The resulting PRP is then injected into the desired site. This injection accelerates the body’s own healing powers in the areas of concern.
Dr. Tracy Hamblin and Dr. Dominic Femiano are using this new technology in the Sports Medicine Clinic to treat both chronic and acute injuries. “When an injury is chronic and has been going on for some time, the body stops creating an inflammatory response,” explains Dr. Hamblin. “The injection will remind the body to heal this area.”
Not unlike a cortisone injection, there are very minimal risks. Since the patient is using his or her own blood, there is virtually no risk of rejection as can happen in other regenerative areas such as bone marrow and organ transplants. Some early pain and swelling can be expected, however, since the intent is to trigger the body’s natural healing inflammatory response with the PRP. In one appointment, under an hour, a patient has their blood drawn, the blood is prepared and the PRP is injected. They can be off to normal activities that same day.
Decreased pain and increased mobility are reported by patients within three months of receiving the PRP injection. For a patient with tennis elbow or a young baseball player healing from Tommy Johns surgery, this treatment can be a game changer.
“We are seeing that patients with osteoarthritis will benefit from PRP injections in terms of decreased pain,” says Dr. Hamblin. There is currently no evidence that there is cartilage regeneration following the PRP injection, Hamblin notes. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects over 20 million people in the US. “We think PRP will be more beneficial to patients with moderate osteoarthritis as opposed to treating severe cases,” she continues.
As our population ages, the hope is that PRP injections and the advancing field of regenerative medicine can help us to retain mobility and age with reduced or eliminated pain.
Insurance companies vary on their coverage and the staff at OOA can help you determine your benefit. Over time, Hamblin expects more companies will cover this treatment if the studies continue to show benefit. The injection saves money over a period of time by decreasing the use of pain medications and potentially eliminating the need for an expensive and more invasive surgery.
PRP is not the only ground-breaking treatment offered at OOA. Persistent tendon pain that is not responsive to PRP or other conservative treatments may benefit from Tenex. Tenex is a percutaneous tenotomy, a minimally invasive treatment for chronic tendon pain that increases blood flow and healing to a desired area. The ideal patient has persistent pain in his or her shoulder, elbow, knee, Achilles tendon or plantar fascia. As Dr. Hamblin explains, “The Tenex technology is designed to break up scar tissue and remove it while leaving the healthy tissue in place.” Doctors Hamblin and Femiano have done more than 30 cases of the Tenex procedure with an 80% success rate.
There are even more healing options on the horizon at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates. Dr. Hamblin hopes that stem cell injections will be available within six months. Cells will be retrieved from the patient’s own body, virtually eliminating any chance of rejection and lowering infection risk.
The physicians at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates have many options at their disposal to help patients of all ages from competitive athletes to weekend walkers. Visiting the sports medicine clinic at OOA means having access to every option from physical therapy and minimally invasive treatments to surgical options if necessary. Hamblin and Femiano want to keep you moving, no matter if it’s toward the finish line of a race or keeping up with your grandkids at the park.
You can hear more about PRP injections from both doctors Femiano and Hamblin themselves at an upcoming Sports Medicine Seminar on March 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the OOA Westside Clinic. For questions or to RSVP, call Rachel Sherburne at 360-570-4862.
For more information on PRP Injections and other healing options available at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates visit their website or call them at 360-709-6230.