My approach for treating arthritic patients who don’t have significant mechanical symptoms that could require surgery falls into two distinct categories: preservation and restoration. Whenever possible, I believe this philosophy can help protect and promote joint health, and ideally prevent the need for knee replacement surgery.
Joint preservation can not only help decrease the painful symptoms of arthritis, but actually helps to slow the progression of the disease. This is accomplished in my office with nonsurgical treatments:
- PRP Therapy, or platelet rich plasma, is an injection of concentrated platelets directly into the arthritic knee. The patient’s own blood is drawn and spun down in a special centrifuge to isolate enriched cells called platelets. The platelets contain healing factors and growth factors. These enriched platelets are collected and re-injected into the site of injury to naturally stimulate the body’s ability to heal connective tissue and speed recovery. Without PRP, damaged tissues often lack the adequate enriched blood supply needed to repair themselves.
- Viscosupplementation is the replacement of natural lubrication that is normally produced in healthy knee joints. The absence of this fluid in an arthritic joint means that cartilage isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and supple. Viscosupplementation replaces this fluid with a synthetic form of hyaluronic acid to lubricate and cushion the joints, making movement more comfortable. Results can last several months before repeating treatment to ensure that the environment of the arthritic knee stays as close to normal as possible.
Unloader braces can be worn to help distribute weight more evenly throughout the knee. And weight loss can also play an important role in joint preservation, along with strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee itself.
Joint restoration is accomplished with stem cell therapy, which is used to replace the shortage of stem cells in the arthritic knee. The fact that worn cartilage is not replaced quickly enough with new cells is one reason that arthritis progresses the way it does. Stem cell treatment uses the body’s own cells to restore damaged tissue and normal function to joints, while promoting regrowth of cartilage.