What is the Real Cost of Knee Joint Replacement Vs. Stem Cell Therapy?
Have you ever wondered what the real cost to your personal bottom line would be if you were scheduled for a joint replacement? What if the same time you were given the option to consider a stem cell procedure for that same knee? Although the joint replacement is a covered benefit of many insurance plans, everyone knows that there are always some part of the procedure not covered and you have to plan for lost wages. Thus, we have developed a simple exercise below to help you work out that difference in cost between the two options. To complete this exercise, you will need a copy of your health insurance plan to find out your deductibles and it would be helpful to have your employer benefits so you can find out if you have paid time off and your current balance in your health spending account.
Are you ready to do some real Jethro Bodine ciphering? Get out a pencil and some of your health insurance information.
Circle the total number of joints you need replaced: 1 2 3 4
We need to determine your potential lost wages since this is an actual cost of the procedure. Are you currently working?
- If yes, What Category of Work are you employed ?
- Moderate - lifting under 30 lbs. , occasional squat or kneel
- High- walking 8 hrs a day, constant stairs, squatting, kneeling and lifting over 30 lbs.
Not working - 0 weeks off work
Sedentary - 6 weeks off work for joint replacement
Moderate - 8 weeks off work for joint replacement
High- 12 weeks off work for joint replacement
Subtract 1 week to reconcile to a stem cell procedure ( ie sedentary 6 weeks -1 week = 5 weeks off). It normally takes a patient upto one week to recover after a stem cell procedure, although most patients can return to work the next day.
Write that number here: ___________________________
Select your rough estimate of income per week:
Multiply the income per week by the level of work number ( ie $1,000 x 5= $5,000)
This is the amount of wages lost if you had your joint replaced. If you need two or more joints replaced, multiply this number by the number of joints ( ie $5,000 x 2 = $10,000)
LINE A: TOTAL INCOME LOST ______________________
Note- the above line may be reduced if you have paid time off or if you have some income replacement insurance. Please contact your human resource office for details.
Now lets calculate the insurance cost of the joint replacement.
- What is your total maximum out of pocket deductible per year on your health insurance?
- $4,000- $5,000 (most common)
- I do not know my maximum.
Write the Maximum Out of Pocket amount here: _____________________
If you do not know the maximum, we can get an idea by answering the following questions:
- What is your annual deductible on your health insurance?
- If you have co-insurance what is percentage ratio? The cost of a total joint is approximately $35,000
- 90/10 (meaning the insurance pays 90% and you pay 10%)
- What are the co-pays for each physical therapy or doctor visit?
Add up each above and write down the estimated maximum here: _________
LINE B: Total Costs Not Covered : __________________________
If you have Medicare without secondary insurance, place in $7,000 since this is 20% of $35,000 .
Now let's find out if you can get reimbursed for any of these costs.
- What is the amount in your yearly Health Spending Account (HSA)? Maximum is $3450 for individuals and $6,900 for families. If over 55, add in another $1,000.
- $2,000- $3,000 (most common)
LINE C: Total reimbursable in your HSA: ______________________
Your Total Cost of a total joint is determined with the following formula: Line A + Line B - Line C = Total Cost of Joint Replacement
Example: Johnny Joint has two bad knees which need to be replaced. He works at the local city government in the maintenance department and his job is high demand. He earns $750 per week in gross wages and he has a total maximum out of pocket cost of $3,000 and has a health spending account of $2,500 but he already spent $500 on medications. What would Johnny’s cost be for replacing his joints this year :
Line A= $750 x 11= $9,000 lost wages
Line B= $3,000 max out of pocket costs
Line C = $2,000 HSA
Johnny Joint Cost for his single knee replacement this year = $9,000 + $3,000 - $2,000= $10,000
If Johnny has both knees replaced he might get lucky and have this done within the same year. Most patients have the other knee done after one year. But, even if he did have this done in the same year, the cost would be the following:
Line A = $9,000
Line B = $0
Line C = $0
The total cost would be : $9,000 +$0 - $0 = $9,000
Johnny’s total cost for both knee replacements would be $19,000
Compare this to the cost of a stem cell procedure which would be the following.
Stem Cell Procedure cost example :
The average cost for a stem cell procedure for both knees is $6,000
Most health spending accounts allow reimbursements for procedures deemed medically necessary and thus, Johnny could deduct $2,000 from this total to bring the cost down to $4,000
The net difference between Johnny having both knees replaced vs a stem cell procedure would be : $19,000 - $4,000 = $15,000! and “you can take that to the bank” as Jethro would say to Mr. Drysdale.
Do Some Cipering Yourself
Cost of Joint Replacement =
Line A _________ + Line B _________ - Line C ___________
Cost of Stem Cell Procedure (advanced level of cell therapy) =
$4,000 for one joint $6,000 for two joints - Line C________________
Write Total Joint Cost Here: ____________________________
Write Stem Cell Cost Here: ____________________________
Subtract Total Joint Cost from Stem Cell to find how much you may save and
write this amount Here: _____________________________________
This amount may change depending upon a few circumstances such as the choice of our ultimate plan; the need for an arthroscopic procedure; or the desire for a general anesthetic at a local surgical center.
If you would like a face to face conversation with Dr. Loniewski, call 810-299-8552 for an appointment.
Are Stem Cells Better Than Most Common Treatments for Knee Pain?
Some of the most convincing evidence for the use of stem cell therapy exists for arthritis of the knee. While we can’t comment much on the use of stem cells for arthritis in other joints, each joint manifests unique results in our clinical practice, with knees showing particularly beneficial outcomes.
What’s the Evidence Stem Cells work for knee arthritis?
First, let us look at literature which illustrates a series of cases as a “proof of concept” type of study. Dr. Chris Centeno developed a method of using bone marrow derived stem cells through his patented and marketed Regenexx™ stem cell clinics, which are based in Colorado. Dr. Centeno published his findings from his patient registry evaluations, wherein he looked at 373 patients who received this treatment in the form of an injection into the osteoarthritic knee. He examined these patients at one, three, and six month intervals, as well as once a year. Over this period of time, Dr. Centeno found that all his patients showed improvements in pain and function, and that the severity of the arthritis did not have an impact on the outcome.There is, however, a problem with such a study: it does not compare the treatment in question against another form of treatment, allowing us to determine which treatment may be a better choice.
Stem Cells Better than Hyaluronic Injections (Chicken Fat)
If we now compare the results of bone marrow derived stem cells to commonly accepted non-surgical treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee, we can start to evaluate which treatment is superior.
Spanish researchers performed such a study when they compared cultured bone marrow stem cells to a commonly treatment called Hyaluronic Acid (sometimes known in the United States as rooster injections or chicken fat injections to the knee). Hyaluronic injections are a very common form of treatment in the United States; over 4 million of these injections are given each year, and it is a commonly accepted and covered treatment by many health insurance carriers. These Spanish researchers compared a form of cultured bone marrow stem cells taken from a separate individual, and injected it into the knee of patients. Another group received the standard single injection of hyaluronic injection. Both sets of patients were followed for a year, being monitored with surveys and an MRI.
At the end of one year, the stem cell recipient patients showed significantly lower pain scores and higher functionality scores. In addition, the group that received the stem cell treatment had improved MRI findings.
Stem Cells Better than Arthroscopy and Micro-fracture.
If we compare bone marrow derived cells to commonly accepted surgical treatments for arthritis, we also find some interesting results. One common surgical treatment used to treat isolated areas of arthritis of the knee is to debride, scrape, or puncture holes in the areas where there is exposed bone. (This action can only be done in patients who have good cartilage surrounding the worn area.) These techniques were made very popular for professional athletes suffering from high impact trauma. The original form of this surgery was developed in Okemos, Michigan by Dr. Lanny Johnson, who invented most of our modern arthroscopic procedures.
The procedure was further promoted by Dr. Steadman at the famous Vail Clinic. This updated procedure poked or drilled small holes within the exposed bone in hopes that this would allow stem cells from the bone of the knee to fill in the space, stimulating healing. This method is currently known as a micro-fracture technique. However, this procedure involved a degree of pain, as the small breaks require the patient to maintain a very strict adherence to limited weight bearing.
Dr. Koh from South Korea’s Center for Stem Cell and Arthritis Research decided to compare the results of stem cells taken from fat and fixed with a special type of fibrin glue to a micro-fractured area of the knee, and compare this to a standard microfracture technique. He followed over 40 patients in each group for over two years. During this time, he not only compared their MRI’s, but also was able to perform a visual arthroscopic examination and biopsy of most of the participants in the study - 57 of the 80 patient, to be exact. Dr. Koh and his research group discovered that patients who received the stem cells and micro-fracture had statically significant improvement in their pain scores (36 vs. 30-point improvement), as well as improved MRI findings, with 65% of the patients in the stem cell group showing complete cartilage coverage vs. 45% in the non-stem cell group. Note that this study used cultured, fat-derived stem cells, and therefore results should be viewed with caution, particularly when being compared to bone marrow.
Dr. Lisa Fortier from Cornell, a veterinary physician, performed a series of studies evaluating the use of the same type of bone marrow we use for knees and its effect on horses. One interesting study of her’s evaluated using a simple injection of bone marrow concentrate versus performing the microfracture surgery in horses. Dr. Fortier and her team followed the horses with sequential MRI studies after one year, and discovered that the bone marrow group had improved findings in the area of the bone next to the injury, as well as the tissue textures.
Stem Cells Better than Most Surgeries for Knee Arthritis
Another commonly used treatment for arthritis is called a high tibial osteotomy, abbreviated HTO. This procedure corrects the bow of the knee joint and helps to restore it to natural alignment. During the procedure, the shin or femur bone is cut and moved over to correct the bow. Dr. Wong and his research team in Singapore evaluated the effects of cultured (grown) stem cells on improving the outcome of this surgery for osteoarthritic knees. Fifty-six patients were randomly assigned to receive stem cells and hyaluronic injection, while others were given the hyaluronic injection alone three weeks after their corrective bone procedure. Both groups were followed for over two years, with follow-up MRI’s performed at the one year mark. In the end, the patients who received the cultured stem cells had improved pain and function scores, as well as improved MRI findings. A follow up study conducted in Italy found similar positive results.
Researchers in Singapore performed another study evaluating if surgery is even necessary for cartilage defects of the knee. The very first cartilage cell procedure approved by the FDA was named Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI). Surgeons would harvest, or sample, some cartilage from a patient during the patient’s first surgery. This sample would then be sent to a company in Boston, where the team would culture and expand only the cartilage cells. Afterward, the cells would be shipped back to the surgeon; a second surgery would be performed upon which the patient’s knee is opened up and a pouch is made from the covering of the shin bone, then glued to create a small pouch where the cultured cells are injected.
This process would require two surgeries and prolonged sessions of physical therapy. Because of this, the researchers proposed they simply inject stem cells rather than requiring the patient to undergo two prolonged surgeries.
Seventy-two patients were placed into one of two test groups. The first group comprised of thirty-six patients, and all received the two stage ACI surgery. The second group consisted of thirty-six patients as well, and all received a single injection of bone marrow derived stem cells. Both groups of patients were then followed for two years. Both groups showed significant improvements in outcome; however, the two stage ACI surgery group did not show improvement if the patient was above the age of 45, while age made no difference for the stem cell injection group.
Researchers in Jabalpur, India were curious if they could improve the results of a very common surgery used to treat arthritic knees with mechanical symptoms such as meniscus tears (cartilage ring tears). Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure using a mini fiber optic camera to look within the knee and treat common conditions such as a tear or loose pieces of cartilage. The researchers divided fifty patients into two groups. Group A received the standard arthroscopic procedure and group B received the arthroscopic procedure, but also received some bone marrow derived stem cells. The stem cell group B had improved quality of life as well as reduced pain.
What???? Stem Cells are Better than Knee Replacement!!!
Now, what about comparing stem cell therapy to one of our best-known treatments for arthritis of the knee - knee replacement surgery? Knee replacement surgery is a very reliable and durable method of relieving the pain and dysfunction of arthritis; in fact, the American Academy of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) reports that over 90% of patients have relief of pain and over 80% of these patients have the same joint replacement in place over 20 years from the time of their surgery.
Although 90% of patients experience pain relief, this does not quantify the degree of the pain relief - for example, most patients may receive pain relief, but a portion of this 90% may only receive ten to twenty percent reduction of their pain, which is not satisfactory. Because of this, we must look at the whole group of joint replacement patients. When we look at this whole group, we find that twenty-seven to thirty percent of the patients are dissatisfied with this joint replacement. These findings were also discussed in a review article by researchers at Bristol University, UK.
Dr. Loniewski has personally replaced over 5,000 joints in his career, and can confirm that this is a good option for patients who have severe deformity of the knee. However, the knee replacement procedure does has some concerns. The first is the potential complication rates.
A review of over 160,000 patients through a national database by researchers from Rush University in Chicago found that the 30-day complication rate form both hip and knee replacement was 16%. Patients over the age of 70 or with histories of malnutrition, diabetes, cardiac disease, and smoking had higher risks.
Other than the higher complication rate, potential patients should consider the inconvenience of a joint replacement surgery. Although some joint replacements can be done in a minimally invasive manner and some patients can have this done as an outpatient, there is still the simple fact that the knee is maximally manipulated with the cutting of bone and the release of ligaments, as well as the implantation of foreign metal and plastic. For this reason, even with our modern minimally invasive techniques, patients still require 24/7 around-the-clock care for a minimum of two weeks; most require three weeks.
Following surgery, patients cannot drive their cars, shop, or enjoy a night out while the knee heals. They are recommended to attend physical therapy at least twice a week for a minimum of three weeks. You the patient cannot return to work (even sedentary types of work) for these same three weeks, and any moderate or high demand types of work (food service, factory) must be put on hold for up to three months. There is also the need for narcotic medications as well as medications to prevent blood clots.
Finally, these procedures normally only treat one knee at a time, meaning patients may have to repeat the treatment within the same year.
Phillipe Hernigou, MD from the University of Paris recognized the shortcomings of joint replacement as well as the benefits of bone marrow derived stem cell therapy and decided to compare the two treatments in some well-designed long term studies. He first looked at using this treatment for young patients who traditionally required joint replacement for a devastating type of arthritis of the knee called avascular necrosis - a condition where the blood supply to the bone around the knee is diminished, and the result is death of the bone and cartilage.
This condition normally occurs in younger patients during the third and fourth decades of life. The thought of replacing a knee in such a young group is concerning since most joint replacements have a limited life expectancy, while younger patients will likely have multiple joint surgeries in the future. His research team decided to evaluate the use of autologous bone marrow derived stem cell therapy injected into the diseased bone near the joint to treat this condition and compare it to traditional joint replacement in the same patient. Thirty patients with an average age of twenty-eight were randomized to receive a stem cell replacement to one knee and a joint replacement to the other knee.
The randomization process eliminated bias in selecting the less severe knee for one specific treatment. All the patients were followed for an amazing twelve years of average follow up. MRI’s were performed prior to the surgery and again at 24 months, five years, and at the last follow-up visit. X-rays were also reviewed and compared to the initial study. Samples of bone marrow were taken at specific sites in the arthritic knee as well as the pelvis where the bone marrow was harvested. The surgical procedure to replace the knee took an average 1.5 times longer than the entire stem cell procedure on the other knee.
After the surgery, patients reported a higher rate of blood clots on the side which received the knee replacement (15% vs. 0%). At the last follow up, six of the thirty knees (20%) with the knee replacement required another surgery, while only three of the stem cell knees (10%) required a knee replacement - but at longer periods out of six, eight and twelve years from the stem cell procedure. The patients recorded their satisfaction with each knee.
The knee replacement group showed eight of thirty (26%) reporting excellent pain relief, and the stem cell side reported four of thirty (13.3%); but there were a much higher number of patients in the poor pain relief after the knee replacement, with four out of thirty (13.3%) and only one out of thirty (3%) from the stem cell side. Most importantly, however, is that when patients were asked to point to the knee they preferred more, 70% of patients pointed to the stem cell side!
When Dr. Hernigou evaluated the sequential MRIs of the stem cell treated knee, he found that there was an increase in cartilage volume as well as a significant decrease in the size of the bone marrow lesion (BML), which is an area of inflamed bone and a cause of pain. Even when some of the stem cell knees required a joint replacement, sampling of the bone and cartilage revealed that the patients who had a poor response still had an average 45% increase in bone mass and required a less invasive type of knee replacement than the other side. In addition, none of the stem cell knees that required a knee replacement required further surgeries.
Dr. Hernigou’s team also looked at treating the very elderly with the same treatment. This study comprised of sixty elderly male patients all 85 years old or older. Group A was treated with the standard total knee replacement for both knees., while Group B was treated with the bone marrow stem cells to both knees injected directly into the bony part of the knee next to the joint. Group C had one knee injected with the stem cells, and the other knee replaced. After an average of six years (ranging from two to fifteen years), the patients in Group B (stem cell group) showed the following:
- Improved knee function scores (Knee Society Scores). There was a 16.3-point improvement for the stem cell group versus only an 8.9-point improvement for total knee group.
- Faster functional recovery- At 9 months, the stem cell group had faster recovery than the total knee group.
- Lower complication rates. Blood clots occurred in only 2% of the stem cell group compared to 12% in the knee replacement group. None of the stem cell patients required a blood transfusion, and 29.3% of the total knee group required blood transfusions.
- Higher use of analgesic medications such as narcotics were used in the total knee group.
- Lower re-operation rate. Only one of the stem cell patients required further surgery or conversion to a total knee. However, 5% of the total knee patients required further surgery.
- Higher overall satisfaction. In Group C, when patients were asked to point to the knee which they preferred, 70% of the patients pointed to the stem cell therapy knee.
It is very interesting that Dr. Hernigou has been able to demonstrate that cell based treatments help the two most vulnerable populations affected by arthritis of the knee. Both the very young and the very old may benefit from this treatment with superior safety, efficiency and patient satisfaction.
Here is what we learned today: Stem Cell Therapy for Knees Have Proof that they have superior results to:
- Hyaluronic Injections (chicken fat)
- Autologous Cellular Implantation (cartilage cell implant)
- Corrective surgery (High Tibial Osteotomy)
- Total Knee Replacement
- Not only is this therapy superior in results to the most commonly used treatments, it is safer and less expensive.
If you would like a face to face consultation with Dr. Loniewski to discuss your knee pain and the options available, please call 810-299-8552 for an appointment.
1 - Safety of Cell Therapy with Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (SafeCell): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Lalu MM, McIntyre L, Pugliese C, Fergusson D, Winston BW, Marshall JC, Granton J, Stewart DJ, Canadian Critical Care Trials Group. PLoS ONE. 2012 Oct 25; 7(10): e47559 PMC [article] PMCID: PMC3485008 PMID: 23133515 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047559
2 - Cancer risk is not increased in patients treated for orthopaedic diseases with autologous bone marrow cell concentrate. Hernigou P, Homma Y, Flouzat-Lachaniette CH, Poignard A, Chevallier N, Rouard H. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2013 Dec 18;95(24):2215-21. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.M.00261. PubMed [citation] PMID:24352775
3 - A dose response analysis of a specific bone marrow concentrate treatment protocol for knee osteoarthritis. Centeno CJ, Al-Sayegh H, Bashir J, Goodyear S, Freeman MD. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2015 Sep 18; 16: 258 PMC [article]
4 - Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis With Allogeneic Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Vega A, Martín-Ferrero MA, Del Canto F, Alberca M, García V, Munar A, Orozco L, Soler R, Fuertes JJ, Huguet M, Sánchez A, García-Sancho J.
Transplantation. 2015 Aug;99(8):1681-90. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000000678. PMID: 25822648
5 - Adipose-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells With Microfracture Versus Microfracture Alone: 2-Year Follow-up of a Prospective Randomized Trial. Koh YG, Kwon OR, Kim YS, Choi YJ, Tak DH. Arthroscopy. 2016 Jan;32(1):97-109. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2015.09.010. Epub 2015 Nov 14. PMID:26585585
6 - Minimally Manipulated Bone Marrow Concentrate Compared with Microfracture Treatment of Full-Thickness Chondral Defects: A One-Year Study in an Equine Model. Chu CR, Fortier LA, Williams A, Payne KA, McCarrel TM, Bowers ME, Jaramillo D. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2018 Jan 17;100(2):138-146. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.17.00132. PMID: 29342064
7 - Injectable cultured bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in varus knees with cartilage defects undergoing high tibial osteotomy: a prospective, randomized controlled clinical trial with 2 years' follow-up. Wong KL, Lee KB, Tai BC, Law P, Lee EH, Hui JH. Arthroscopy. 2013 Dec;29(12):2020-8. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2013.09.074. PubMed [citation] PMID:24286801
8 - Combination of High Tibial Osteotomy and Autologous Bone Marrow Derived Cell Implantation in Early Osteoarthritis of Knee: A Preliminary Study. Cavallo M, Sayyed-Hosseinian SH, Parma A, Buda R, Mosca M, Giannini S. Archives of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2018 Mar; 6(2): 112-118 PMC [article]PMCID: PMC5867354 PMID:29600263
9 - Autologous bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells versus autologous chondrocyte implantation: an observational cohort study. Nejadnik H, Hui JH, Feng Choong EP, Tai BC, Lee EH. Am J Sports Med. 2010 Jun;38(6):1110-6. doi: 10.1177/0363546509359067. Epub 2010 Apr 14. PubMed [citation] PMID: 20392971
10 - The new avenues in the management of osteo-arthritis of knee--stem cells. Varma HS, Dadarya B, Vidyarthi A. J Indian Med Assoc. 2010 Sep;108(9):583-5. PubMed [citation] PMID:21510531
11 - A review of the clinical approach to persistent pain following total hip replacement. Lam YF, Chan PK, Fu H, Yan CH, Chiu KY.
Hong Kong Med J. 2016 Dec;22(6):600-7. Epub 2016 Oct 31. Review. PubMed [citation]
12 - Total knee replacement: is it really an effective procedure for all?
Wylde V, Dieppe P, Hewlett S, Learmonth ID. Knee. 2007 Dec;14(6):417-23. Epub 2007 Jun 26. Review. PubMed [citation] PMID: 17596949
13 - Complications Following Outpatient Total Joint Arthroplasty: An Analysis of a National Database.
Courtney PM, Boniello AJ, Berger RA. J Arthroplasty. 2017 May;32(5):1426-1430. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2016.11.055. Epub 2016 Dec 14. PubMed [citation] PMID: 28034481
14 - Subchondral stem cell therapy versus contralateral total knee arthroplasty for osteoarthritis following secondary osteonecrosis of the knee.
Hernigou P, Auregan JC, Dubory A, Flouzat-Lachaniette CH, Chevallier N, Rouard H.
Int Orthop. 2018 Mar 27. doi: 10.1007/s00264-018-3916-9. PubMed [citation] PMID: 29589086
15 - Benefits of small volume and small syringe for bone marrow aspirations of mesenchymal stem cells. Hernigou P, Homma Y, Flouzat Lachaniette CH, Poignard A, Allain J, Chevallier N, Rouard H. Int Orthop. 2013 Nov;37(11):2279-87. doi: 10.1007/s00264-013-2017-z. Epub 2013 Jul 24.PubMed [citation] PMID: 23881064 PMCID: PMC382489
16 - Autologous conditioned serum for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other possible applications in musculoskeletal disorders. Frizziero A, Giannotti E, Oliva F, Masiero S, Maffulli N. Br Med Bull. 2013;105:169-84. doi: 10.1093/bmb/lds016. Epub 2012 Jul 4. Review. PubMed [citation]PMID:22763153
17 - Subchondral stem cell therapy versus contralateral total knee arthroplasty for osteoarthritis following secondary osteonecrosis of the knee. Hernigou P, Auregan JC, Dubory A, Flouzat-Lachaniette CH, Chevallier N, Rouard H. Int Orthop. 2018 Mar 27. doi: 10.1007/s00264-018-3916-9. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed [citation] PMID: 29589086
Four Reasons to Use Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeons over Health Spas
Heath Spa - Where are the Doctors?
Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeons
By: Edward G. Loniewski, DO, FACOS, FAOAO
In our area which is around the Detroit, Michigan area of Southeastern Michigan there are health spas offering stem cell therapy. Many health spas are wonderful facilities for a massage, manicure, liposuction, hair plugs or even a facial. However, they may not be the best place for a stem cell therapy for arthritis. There are four major reasons.
#1 Proper Diagnosis - Physicians at health spas are more than likely wonderful and nice physicians who are the jack of all trades, yet the master of none!. They might be very experienced recognizing and treating common skin and hair conditions, but they are not board certified and fellowship trained specialists in arthritis. Thus, making the correct diagnosis of your joint as well as the joint above and below is critical to administering the correct treatments. If they miss commonly seen conditions such as pes anserinus bursitis of the knee or even a simple medial meniscus tear, your stem cell outcome will be compromised by this misdiagnosis. Board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic surgeons specializing in joint conditions have at least 6 to 10 years more experience than practitioners at a health spa. You have to make the right diagnosis first to recommend the right treatment.
#2 Proper Delivery and Customized Treatments - Injecting the cells into the correct area using the correct delivery system is critical to your outcome. Most health spa physicians have great experience injecting wrinkles or crows feet, but they have little experience injecting into and around major joints of the body such as your knee, shoulder and hip. Not only do they have limited experience injecting these joints, they have even less experience using the right type of needle, technique and imaging tools such as ultrasounds to ensure the therapy is injected into the correct area.
#3 Recognizing Complications - Although complications with cell based therapies are very rare, they can happen. If an infection does occur to a joint or tendon, many physicians in a medical spa will quickly refer you to an emergency room where they will call a board certified orthopedic surgeon to come in and treat this complication. Also, should you develop a meniscus tear or ligament tear, this is something a physician at a health spa can not and should not handle. Thus, we can recognize and treat any complications if they should arise.
#4 Customized Dosing - Many health spas use the same formula and dosing for a face lift as they do for arthritis of the knee. We know that the dosing of cell based therapies for rotator cuff problems of the shoulder is a totally different dosing than for arthritis of the knee. However, a medical spa will use the same dosing and technique they use for a facial treatment to your knee. Again, the jack of all trades and yet the master of none.
So, although health spas make us all feel and look good, they may not be the best place to go for treatment of your arthritis or joint ,ligament, muscle or tendon problems. At Advancedortho.net we are board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic surgeons specializing in proper diagnosis; delivery and continued treatment of orthopedic joint, tendon, ligament and bone problems. This is what we do all the time so let us do what we do the best. These are your cells for your healing delivered by a clinic who specializes in joint and tendon problems. Call 810-299-8550 for a proper evaluation and treatment plan now.
Cost Effective Alternatives to Supartz or Chicken Fat Injections
As of April 1, 2018, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan will no longer cover any hyaluronic acid injections for arthritis. This includes injections better known as Supartz, Synvisc, Effflexa or sometimes referred to as roster comb and/or chicken fat injections. Medicare and Blue Cross products covering Medicare will still cover these injections. The rationale is not due to any adverse reactions or increasing cost of the injections, but rather due to a recommendation from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Without insurance reimbursement, these treatments can cost up to $1600 which is a terrible burden for our patients. However, Advanced Orthopedic Specialists and Dr. Edward G. Loniewski have come up with some very cost effective treatment alternatives that are more effective, safer and less time consuming than the current hyaluronic injection series.
In summary, we have the following cost effective options:
• Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections – This uses the healing growth factors of your own blood to relieve pain and restore function better than hyaluronic injections with just one treatment.
• Homeopathic Traumeel and Zeel Injections- Imported from Germany and clinically proven to reduce pain without any known side effects. Three injections given one week apart.
• Joint Builder Ultra- This special combination of oral hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, boswellia and MSM provide relief of pain.
• Multi-Waved Locked System (MLS) Laser- Medical grade dual laser therapy to reduce inflammation and pain without any injection or side effects.
Please contact our office at 810-299-8550 for the most current pricing.
This blog will focus on homeopathic injections as an alternative:
Homeopathic Injections- Samuel Hahnemann brought the idea that “like cures like” to the modern world in the early 1800’s and this was so popular by the late 1800’s that the University of Michigan opened its own homeopathic college in 1891. Homeopathy fell on hard times when many medical journals and standard medical organizations refused to recognize this form of medicine as legitimate theory.
However, this may change soon with the release of some recent studies by such institutions such as the Case Medical Center and the University of Miami. In addition, some basic science studies now show some significant positive biologic changes occurring with these preparations. The first study compared a homeopathic preparation called Zeel to two traditional arthritis medication called Celebrex (celcoxib) and Vioxx (refacoxib). Although there are some flaws in the design of the controls of this study and no use of a placebo, it did conclude that there was no statistical superiority of any of the medications in the treatment of mild to moderate arthritis of the knee. This meant that the homeopathic preparation performed just as effectively as two traditional medications The MOZArT study helped justify this concept by putting together a blinded and placebo controlled study conducted in the United States at Case Hospitals in Cleveland. Over 252 patients between the ages of 45-80 with moderate to severe osteoarthritis of their knee were enrolled to either receive 3 injections of Traumeel/ Zeel combination or a placebo of saline. They received one injection per week for 3 weeks. They completed pain and function scores as well as 50-foot walking test and a global physician assessment. Patients were accessed about every 2 weeks for 99 days. The homeopathic injection group with Traumeel and Zeel had statically significant improvements in all parameters.
Another interesting study evaluated the biochemical effect of Traumeel in vitro (in a test tube) on human T-Cells and gut epithelial cells. The researchers at The Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine in Jerusalem, Israel found that Traumeel had a profound effect on the pro-inflammatory production of Interleukin 1-beta (IL-1B), Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha ( TNF-a) and Interleukin-8 ( IL-8). Traumeel reduced these toxic, inflammatory byproducts of cells by 50-70% in both active and resting cells and this effect had an inverse relationship to the concentration of the product thus proving the long-held concepts of homeopathy. In plain English this means that the homeopathic preparation dramatically reduced harmful biochemical markers which are important in the treatment of arthritis. These pro-inflammatory products especially Interleukin-1 beta are extremely important in joint homeostasis or the restoration of normal biochemical function of the knee. In addition, it appears that Traumeel has further effects on the activation of biochemical pathways which help with the repair of a damaged joint. Researchers at the University of Leipzig found that exposing chondrocytes (cartilage cells) to Traumeel caused an elevation of Transforming Growth Factor – Beta (TGF-B) as well as stimulating the basic function of cartilage cells while also reducing harmful chemicals called Matrix Metalleoproteinases (MMP-13). This study helped to solidify the previous study and it revealed that this homeopathic solution not only stimulated positive effects on cartilage cells, but also helped protect these cells.
Traumeel is a botanical mixture of approximately 14 biologic minerals and is designed for short term pain relief of inflammation caused by trauma, or arthritis. It can be used orally, topically or as an injection into a joint. Zeel is also a botanical mixture of 14 biologic minerals in differing dosing to provide longer term relief of pain caused by an arthritic joint and is proposed to slow down the degenerative process of arthritis. These preparations have been used by practitioners in Germany and Austria for over 30 years with excellent safety profiles.
A combination of just 2 cc of Traumeel and 2 cc of Zeel with 1-2 cc of standard local anesthetic can be injected into almost any arthritic joint with little need for any time off work or activities. Most patients notice changes beginning after the second injection and most notice relief for at least 3-6 months. The injections of Traumeel and Zeel do not interfere with other medications, nor cause any changes in blood sugars which is a problem with corticosteroid injections. The injections can be safely injected into tendons or ligaments without fear of rupture or destruction. The treatments can also be repeated without concerns about resistance or further damage to the joint surface.
Because these are botanical minerals and they are diluted beyond a traditional pharmaceutical product, the prices are naturally lower. This is much lower than platelet rich plasma or even hyaluronic injections. Because this natural botanical preparation does not produce harmful effects on cellular preparations, this can be safely used in patients receiving stem cell or PRP injections for faster pain relief while helping to restore the normal biochemical environment of an arthritic joint. Advanced Orthopedic Specialists is excited to offer this option to our patients as we continually strive to provide “state of the art care in a friendly environment.” If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Edward Loniewski to discuss this natural and cost effective treatment, call 810-299-8550 as we are always happy to help.