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Bone marrow expedites knee-replacement healing?

February 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
About half-a-million knee replacements are performed every year, and that number is skyrocketing, especially for Baby Boomers. When joints wear out, you don't have a lot of options. Can you really avoid knee surgery? One local doctor believes the body may heal itself with a little help from your bone marrow.

With a little help from a power drill and and an X-ray machine, doctors are extracting bone marrow from 49-year-old Mandy Akridge's hipbone.

"That really wasn't bad at all," said Akridge. "If I had to grade it out of 10, it was less than a one."

Akridge knows all about pain. She's lived with it for years. Her active lifestyle caused severe knee arthritis. She couldn't walk down stairs.

"Life was kind of miserable because I was faced with a knee replacement, which I didn't want to have because I knew I'd have to repeat it every 10 years," said Akridge.

Then she heard about Dr. Steve Sampson and a bone-marrow injection designed to regenerate the cells of her knee.

"The concept that the body has the ability to self-repair and heal, we all believe in, and it's really about understanding the science and trying to treat the disease itself, not just the symptoms," said Dr. Steven Sampson, founder of the Orthohealing Center.

Dr. Sampson was one of the first U.S. doctors to treat sports injuries with platelet-rich plasma (PRP). Blood drawn from patients is spun down to increase the concentration of platelets.

Now he's taking this process a step further by infusing PRP with a patient's bone marrow. It's extracted right in the office. Once the bone marrow is extracted, it's placed in a centrifuge. The idea is to isolate the regenerative cells.

"And what this does is basically create the cellular makeup of a younger individual," said Sampson.

These young regenerative cells are then injected directly into the knee.

Doctor of physical therapy Andrew Pritikin sees the results firsthand.

"And the recovery is faster. The tissue not only heals, but it actually gets better," said Pritikin.

This is Mandy's second procedure. After her first one a year ago, her MRI shows significant change.

"And what we are able to demonstrate is improved bone edema and bone healing, which is an early sign of improved cartilage and regeneration," said Sampson.

The pain is 80-percent gone and after this treatment, she hopes her knee will feel young again.

"I'm pretty sure it's going to take me to a hundred percent," said Mandy.

Dr. Sampson says most patients start to feel relief a few weeks after the procedure.

This treatment is not covered by insurance, and the average cost is about $5,000.


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