Regenerative medicine as an option to surgery for orthopedic injuries
Dr. Joel Richnak of Mountain View Rehabilitation Medical in Grass Valley is a fervent educator of the human body’s unique ability to heal itself. But when time or physical therapy isn’t sufficient to overcome an orthopedic injury, he explains, there are other alternatives besides surgery for alleviating a person’s discomfort and getting them back to doing the activities they enjoy.
One such alternative is with regenerative medicine, non-surgical procedures where a body’s natural healing agents – platelets and stem cells – are used to help facilitate the healing and repair process in conditions of tissue injury and degenerative diseases. Regenexx™, the company with which Dr. Richnak is affiliated, was founded in 2005 and is the nation’s leading provider and researcher of regenerative medical procedures for orthopedic conditions.
Since Dr. Richnak began providing Regenexx™ procedures in 2016, he has successfully treated hundreds of patients who suffer from conditions including rotator cuff, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and meniscus tears, and knee, hip and shoulder arthritis. He has treated patients from a 15-year-old athlete suffering from an anterior cruciate ligament tear to a 97-year-old patient who simply wanted to be able to walk without pain.
He described one of his cases which involved an ultra-runner who not only was being told he needed to have meniscal surgery, but was also told that he would never compete at distance running again. After having had his meniscus treated with his own platelets by Dr. Richnak, that patient was not only able to pace a runner for 21 miles of the Western States Endurance Run last June, but is training to do the one-hundred mile race himself this year.
Dr. Richnak has had other patients who have had to stop such activities as skiing, golf and hiking, but after having a Regenexx™ procedure are now happily and comfortably re-engaged on these activities.
“The ability to help people return to their passions is what inspires me and makes me deeply grateful for the field of medicine which I am in,” Richnak stated. “I feel so fortunate to be practicing in this period of time when I’m able to offer this powerful treatment to my patients.”
Regenexx™ procedures entail using one’s own blood platelets or bone marrow derived stem cells and precisely injecting them into a targeted area under ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance. The platelet procedures, commonly referred to as PRP (platelet rich plasma) procedures, are used to treat tendon and ligament tears as well as mild arthritis. Platelets release growth factors that kick-start a person’s normal healing process by stimulating local stem cells to encourage the body to heal itself.
Stem cell procedures, on the other hand, are used for more severe injuries and conditions. Regenexx™ procedures use mesenchymal stem cells separated from one’s own bone marrow and can turn into bone, cartilage, muscle, tendons, or ligaments. Where the platelet rich plasma procedure is done in a single day, the stem cell procedure takes place over the course of a week, with three different days of injections.
For people wanting to be evaluated for their candidacy for a Regenexx™ procedure, Dr. Richnak will do a comprehensive physical exam, reviewing every aspect of their injury and reviewing x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging directly with his patients so as to make a specific and accurate diagnosis. Once the appropriate diagnosis is made, he will introduce a detailed treatment plan that addresses not only the site of pain but its underlying causes. He will then provide a candidacy rating for the likelihood of a positive outcome from a Regenexx™ procedure, if recommended.
Depending on treatment recommendations, the price for procedures can range anywhere from $1,300 to $7,500. The procedures are not yet covered by Medicare or other main-stream insurance providers, but are now covered by many employers that offer self-insured programs as well as some health expense sharing programs. Despite the direct cost they are typically much less costly than the out-of-pocket expense for surgery and allow for a much quicker recovery.
Dr. Richnak is board certified in Physiatry as well as in Sports Medicine. He will be hosting a free Regenexx™ Seminar tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23rd from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Madelyn Helling Library Community Room. To reserve your seat, please register at https://mtnviewrehab.com/education-seminars.
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