At Utah Stem Cells, our goal is to help as many patients as possible to become pain free and achieve substantially improved functionality. We feel that our approach to musculoskeletal pain and disability is distinct from other non-surgical approaches because we treat an important cause of these ailments that is often overlooked – joint regeneration of damaged tissues and tightening of ligament laxity. Utah Stem Cells specializes in an advanced form of Prolotherapy, which is a relatively unfamiliar and under-utilized non-surgical treatment for musculoskeletal disorders. Prolotherapy has been practiced for over 80 years by a small but growing group of physicians with great results. Experienced doctors using Prolotherapy have had great success in eliminating many forms of musculoskeletal pain for a very long time.
In fact, in 1957, a low back study published in the Journal of American Medical Association showed a cure rate of 82% with no recurrence of pain in a 14 year follow-up (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1153924#References). This fact is even more impressive considering a recent study showed only 20% of all back surgeries are considered to be successful after 2 years, and 10-40% of patients suffer from long term complications from failed back surgery syndrome. Back surgery is the second-leading surgical procedure performed in the U.S. with approximately 500,000 surgeries performed annually.
Ligaments and tendons are key structures in the joints that basically keep the bones in proper alignment. Healthy ligaments and tendons are strong and tight, yet flexible enough to allow for proper joint movement and function. After an injury, the ligament or tendon will be compromised like an old worn-out rubber band that has been left in the sun. The previous supple, flexible and strong tissue will become stiff, inflexible, weakened, and unable to perform the function of keeping the joint in a bio-mechanically correct position throughout the range of motion. Furthermore, these structures can provide a constant source of pain from the accompanying chronic inflammation. Also, arthritic changes in joints were once thought to be irreversible, but now we can regenerate cartilage and other damaged tissue.
Conventional medical treatments for ligament/tendon micro-tears and arthritis have included rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen and naproxen), opiate medications (like Percocet and Lortab), and steriod injections. These treatments often allow a quick return to the activities that caused the injury in the first place. This often leads to continued additional micro trauma to the ligaments and tendons, and a chronic mechanical shearing (lateral sliding) on the joint surface, which will accelerate the loss of cartilage causing worsening arthritis.
Ligaments and tendons are different from other tissues such as muscle and bone because they have a very limited supply of blood and oxygen. This means the key nutrients required to repair an injured ligament or tendon are usually not available to fully heal these tissues even after a minor injury. Prolotherapy (proliferative therapy) injections can repair the weakened sites and produce healthy new ligament and tendon tissue. This results in the strengthening and stabilization of the joint and permanent pain relief.
Prolotherapy stimulates the body to repair the painful injured area(s) when the body’s natural healing process is not able to do the job on its own. Prolotherapy is an accurate injection of a non-toxic substance into the injured tissue, which causes a temporary and purposeful therapeutic inflammation. The resultant inflammation initiates a beneficial healing cascade causing an increase in blood supply, growth factors, and stem cells. This eventually produces an increase in collagen that essentially grows stronger tissues and cartilage.
The advantages of using Placental/Amniotic Stem Cells over other traditional therapies are the astounding physiologic benefits that Stem Cells supplement to the healing cascade. Abundant Stem Cells and crucial growth factors are present in Amniotic tissue and when they are injected into an area that requires wound healing and growth they are activated to proliferate and differentiate into the needed types of tissue. Stem Cells have the potential to become cartilage, tendon, ligament, bone, and muscle, as well as the ability to promote other healing factors, which are very vital to the repair. These many added benefits make Placental Stem Cells far superior to other elementary solutions, which have traditionally been utilized for Prolotherapy.
Placental Stem Cells are harvested from healthy live births, and carry none of the ethical dilemmas that accompany harvesting from embryonic tissues. These cells are very young, healthy, and vigorous undifferentiated cells that have the ability to turn into whatever tissue is in need of repair. They also don’t carry any risks of incompatibility or rejection and undergo the very highest of quality and safety screening.
The platelets are the specialized blood cells, which are primarily recruited in the blood stream to heal damaged tissues. When an injury occurs, platelets are the true “front-line soldiers” that carry with them many different types of growth factors, proteins, and enzymes, which promote the healing process. They are also the cells that are most responsible for helping to stop the bleeding when tears (sprains) in ligaments and tendons occur. We are able to extract a much higher concentration of these desirable cells from your own blood and when this process is completed, we refer to this rich solution of platelets as “Platelet Rich Plasma”. Then, this “supercharged” solution can be targeted directly into the damaged area. The PRP can be injected alone or in combination with Stem Cells. Ideally, the first Prolotherapy treatment employed for the treatment of a damaged joint would include the combination of Stem Cells with PRP. Subsequent treatments may be necessary, and these follow-up Prolotherapy treatments are usually with PRP alone.
The length of time it takes to do one of the Stem Cell Regeneration procedures is about 45 minutes. This will include the time it will take to examine you, draw your blood for the PRP, prepare the PRP and Amniotic Stem Cell solution, and inject your joints and problem areas. The actual injections are met with minimal discomfort, and local anesthetic is utilized. The procedure is typically tolerated well, and you will be able to walk out of the office without significant pain or difficulties.
After the local anesthetic wears off a few hours later, the discomfort that will develop will be managed with prescribed pain medications. Depending on the area injected, the recovery period in which pain medications will be necessary is usually about two days. The pain will then dramatically subside over the next three to five days and you will return back to your typical baseline pain and function that you were experiencing before the procedure.
Your body will need the next four to six weeks to heal and regenerate the damaged tissue, and you should see significant improvement during this time. It is not unusual for many people to experience much quicker improvement, even within a couple of days, in some joints. However, it is more likely that it will take more time than that and usually will take a couple of weeks to start experiencing significant improvement. We will need to re-examine you at the 6–8 week point to see how you are responding to the procedure, and to determine the need for any further treatments. In some cases, additional treatments with PRP alone may be beneficial, but not always required. Once maximal benefit has been achieved, you may continue to enjoy your new pain relief and functionality for several years, many years, or have complete resolution of your symptoms indefinitely. It is different for everyone depending on the degree of the injury that is being treated and individual characteristics.
The success rate of improved pain and functionality is extremely high, and the procedure length and recovery period is dramatically reduced from what can be expected with surgery. Depending on the types of surgeries that are used for various musculoskeletal disorders, prolonged hospital stays of several days followed by many months of immobilization and rehabilitation is the norm. When joint replacements with hardware are necessary or spinal fusions, you can expect the hospital stays, immobilization period, and recovery periods to be on the longer side of the spectrum. Post surgical complications can further confound these variables and the success rates of these very invasive procedures are often less than desirable.
This cost is significantly less than the cost for surgeries, not to mention the cost often associated with the prolonged recovery periods and inability to work. A stark contrast can be appreciated when comparing the average cost of a knee replacement in the United States, $40,000, with the cost of our procedure. Also, many people don’t have insurance, their insurance plans don’t cover many of the potential surgeries, or they have high deductibles that haven’t been met. Unfortunately, at this time most insurance companies still won’t cover the Stem Cell treatments that Utah Stem Cells provides, despite the fact that these treatments are no longer considered “experimental”. They have a long-standing proven track record, and the most highly esteemed level of research studies to back up their effectiveness. Sometimes, health insurance companies will cover a portion of the Stem Cell treatments, but usually not all of it. This will likely change in the future when the insurance companies recognize the significant savings that they can reap with our procedures compared with the cost of surgery, and the excellent success rates and patient satisfaction that is seen.