Regenexx: Grass Valley doctor introduces a new procedure that helps the body heal itself
Dr. Joel Richnak, managing partner at Mountain View Rehabilitation Medical Associates in Grass Valley, is the first in Nevada County to venture into a ground-breaking field of medicine known as Regenexx. The non-surgical procedure has seen remarkable results when it comes to restoring and repairing injured tissue using a patient’s own platelets or stem cells.
Known as “regenerative medicine,” Regenexx has proved most effective for treating orthopedic injuries, arthritis and other degenerative conditions. The procedure entails precise injections of concentrated platelets or stem cells in a targeted area, using ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance, said Richnak.
“I first became aware of — and interested in — regenerative medicine during my medical residency,” he said. “I then began training in proliferative injections in 2007. Through my studies, I became more and more fascinated with not only the body’s amazing capacity to heal, but with the power of regenerative medicine techniques to help facilitate the healing and repair process in conditions of injury and degenerative diseases.”
In order to become a Regenexx affiliate, a doctor in orthopedic medicine must take part in a rigorous selection process, which includes demonstrating competency by having done many related procedures. Richnak, for example, has been doing ultrasound-guided procedures and injections for more than seven years. Regenexx is a network of doctors specializing in the nation’s most advanced regenerative medicine protocols, developed and patented by Regenexx. Affiliated physicians all practice “interventional orthopedics” by providing non-surgical therapies delivered with high accuracy through a needle.
Mountain View Rehabilitation now has a state-of-the-art Regenexx lab on site specifically designed to achieve the highest concentration of platelets or stem cells. The higher the concentration, said Richnak, the more quickly the tissue repair process can begin. For platelets, it’s a simple blood draw, and for stem cells a patient will generally undergo a bone marrow aspiration from the hip. Blood needs to be processed for several hours, but many patients come back the same day for the procedure. Rarely are more than two procedures needed.
Mary Reeve, 78, of Grass Valley, had the procedure done for severe arthritis in her thumbs. In the past, a series of cortisone injections over many years proved to be less and less effective. She arrived about four hours prior to her procedure at Mountain View Rehab to allow time for her blood to be “spun down” to a concentration of platelets.
“The doctor was very cautious and precise using the ultrasound,” she said. “He made sure the platelets were getting into the joints, ligaments and tendons. I’m a nurse — I knew it was a very sterile environment and Dr. Richnak was very, very professional — although we did laugh a lot. I had my first procedure done two months ago and the second one five weeks ago — so far, so good!”
Due to the low risk of using one’s own cells for healing, the inherent risks of regenerative treatments are considered to be lower than steroid injections or surgery. However, as with any injectable treatment there is always the risk of bleeding, pain, tissue injury or simply no response to treatment. Risks are minimized, of course, by using standard protocols of sterility and safety. In addition, by using imaging guidance during all procedures, the likelihood of tissue injury is also minimized.
“There have been many studies done and these are very safe procedures — there is very little risk,” said Richnak. “It’s exciting — this procedure has the potential to change the field of medicine. There are many people out there dreading the thought of surgery, which could involve six months of recovery. Yet recovery from a Regenexx procedure is next to nil.”
Regenexx has developed a reputation for having the most advanced orthopedic platelet and stem cell procedures in the world. They have collected more data on treated patients than any other company. According to independent sources, their research accounts for 51 percent of the world’s orthopedic stem cell literature. And as a Regenexx affiliate, Mountain View Rehabilitation has the customized lab facility that will enable them to implement any updated innovations.
Depending on treatment recommendations, the price for procedures can range anywhere from $1,000 to $7,500, which are not yet covered by insurance. However, they are typically much less costly than the out-of-pocket expense for surgery, not to mention the much quicker recovery. Richnak estimates that platelet procedures may be covered by insurance within a few years, and stem cells in roughly a decade.
“Despite that fact that the FDA is a slow beast, the process could be expedited with new research,” he said. “Due to the astounding results, Regenexx procedures are now covered in many European countries.”
Over the years, Richnak has consistently pursued additional professional training, driven by his strong interest in regenerative medicine and its ability to help the human body heal itself. This led to training in “prolotherapy,” — another kind of injection therapy — in 2007, followed by training in regenerative medicine concepts and treatments in 2014. In 2015, he was brought on as a Regenexx affiliate.
“I get great satisfaction from helping people get back to comfortably living their lives,” he said. “It’s great to see them return to activities that they once enjoyed but have had to stop because of their injury or degenerative condition, such as gardening, playing music, skiing or hiking.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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