Fifty million Americans suffer from arthritis. That number is expected to grow to 67 million in the next 15 years. The pain is becoming so excruciating that record numbers are opting for hip, shoulder, and knee replacements. However, now you don't have to go under the knife to find relief.
Former State Representative John Lunsford gave speeches, shook hands, and pounded the pavement for eleven years in Georgia. It all took a toll on his body.
"I was taking about 16 ibuprofen a day and sometimes I'd take two naproxen in the morning and two at night," John Lunsford told Ivanhoe.
Lunsford was suffering from osteoarthritis. Doctors said his only solution was surgery.
"The first one told me I would need a total hip replacement. So, I went to get a second opinion, and he told me I needed a total hip replacement," John said.
Then, he found the next evolution in regenerative medicine, using stem cells to target inflammatory and pain pathways.
"They change the pain pathway so it's no longer as painful. They change the inflammatory pathways in that you don't have as much inflammation being produced and in turn not as much pain," R. Amadeus Mason, MD, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at Emory Sports Medicine Center, told Ivanhoe.
Emory Orthopedic Specialists take the stem cells from a patient's own bone marrow, process them, and inject them back into the patients' joint, causing the pain to go away.
"We have also seen regeneration of cartilage," Dr. Mason said.
Patients are able to walk or drive immediately after the procedure and should experience significant overall improvement within six weeks.
"The implant was a little intense for a few seconds, nothing you couldn't deal with. It was a whole lot less painful than a root canal," Lunsford said.
Out of 50 patients, only one needed surgery.
"We basically turbo charged that site to heal itself and so far so good," Lunsford said.
Stem cell injections are being used mainly in the larger joints: knees, hips, and shoulders. However, because this treatment is so new, doctors don't know how long it will last. After three to four years patients will need to have another injection, or the replacement surgery, and because of that most health insurance plans will not cover it.
BACKGROUND: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It affects an estimated 27 million Americans. Most people over the age of 60 have it to some degree, but its severity varies. However, people in their 20s and 30s can get osteoarthritis. In people over 50, more women than men have osteoarthritis. It is associated with the breakdown of cartilage in joints and can occur in almost any joint in the body. It occurs more often in the weight bearing joints of the hips, knees, and spine. It can also affect the thumb, fingers, neck, and large toe. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in a joint to become stiff and lose its elasticity, making it more susceptible to damage. (Source: www.webmd.com)
SYMPTOMS/RISK FACTORS: Symptoms of osteoarthritis most often develops gradually and includes:
Pain after overuse or after long periods of inactivity
Stiffness after periods of rest
Bony enlargements in the middle and end joints of the fingers
Joint aching and soreness, especially with movement
There are several factors that increase a person's chances of having osteoarthritis. They include heredity, obesity, injury, other diseases, and joint overuse. (Source: www.webmd.com)
TREATMENT: The condition is usually treated with a number of treatments including weight loss, medications, physical therapy with muscle strengthening exercises, hot and cold compresses to the painful joint, removal of joint fluid, exercise, injection of medications to the joint, and use of supportive devices like canes or crutches. Surgery is also helpful to relieve pain when other treatment options have not been effective. The type of treatment depends on several different circumstances, like age, activities, overall health, occupation, medical history, location of disease, and severity of osteoarthritis. (Source: www.webmd.com)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Researchers at Emory Sports Medicine Center are using stem cells to relieve joint pain. The two places in the body with an abundance of stem cells are the bone marrow (BMAC) and the adipose tissue (fat cells). These are the two places the doctor may choose to harvest to help treat joint pain or chronic tendon pain. Stem cells harness the healing power of a patient's own blood and works to actually repair the damaged tissue. They are isolated from a small sample of a patient's own bone marrow or fat cells and inject them directly into the damaged area. Emory physicians also use Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), which assists in the repair process. Each patient's treatment plan varies, but the typical patient requires one stem cell injection and a follow-up injection of PRP four to six weeks after the first injection. Since the cells come from the patient, there is not a chance of their body rejecting it. At the injection site, there is a very small risk of infection and a chance that some bruising will occur. (Source: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/sports-medicine/pdf/emoryorthostemcell.pdf)
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Emory Sports Medicine Center