Regenerative Cell Therapy - An Alternative To Foot and Ankle Surgery

I like super hero comics, but I cannot say that I am a super fanatic. I won’t delve into the DC Comics versus Marvel Comics debate, and won’t pretend that I don’t like characters from both and enjoy movies produced by both. However, I was especially intrigued by Marvel’s Luke Cage which aired on Netflix. The comic follows Luke Cage, an ex-convict who possess super human strength, and skin and muscle that is dense and resistant to physical injury. There are several action packed scenes where he is shot, beaten, stabbed, and sustains all manner of physical abuse, and his skin regenerates almost instantaneously How is Luke Cage’s skin and muscle resistant to physical damage and able to regenerate so quickly? He was the subject of a cellular regeneration experiment while imprisoned which rendered his skin virtually indestructible. It is often stated that “art imitates life,” and in this case, Luke Cage may be a forecast into what is on the horizon in foot and ankle medicine. I’m not suggesting that we will be recreating feet in the near future, but I do feel as though we are on the brink of a new era in medicine where regenerative cell therapy will be a viable tool we can use to treat acute injury and chronic conditions that ail the foot and ankle of many.

What is regenerative medicine? Regenerative medicine is a branch of medicine that focuses on the natural repair and regeneration of damaged tissues within the body. This treatment modality focuses on stimulating the body's own growth factors and cells to heal painful, degenerated or damaged joints and tissues.

Why has it gained popularity in recent years? This is not a new therapy. The basis for the theory of regenerative medicine comes from transplant medicine. And, we've known for years that we can use a patients own platelet cells to rejuvenate tissues in the plastic surgery and dermatology arena. Recently, it has become popular in the musculo-skeletal arena because elite athletes have been using these types of therapies for recovery and to either avoid or supplement surgical procedures to aid in faster healing. Scientists have been researching it for years, and recently have discovered responsible and reproducible ways to procure viable amniotic growth and stem cells. Because of this, the treatment is more widely available.

Who is a candidate for regenerative medicine therapy? We live in a very active community, and with that we see a lot of sports injuries to tendons and ligaments. So anyone that has acute ligament or tendon injury may be a candidate.  However, the beauty of this therapy is that it works in chronic conditions like degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, and chronic or old tendon or ligament injuries. Patients that have exhausted reasonable conservative measures and are maybe considering surgery for conditions like plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis or osteoarthritis of the ankle and foot would be potential candidates. The idea is to get a patient back to an active lifestyle and hopefully avoid surgery and the downtime associated with that.

How is the therapy administered? The therapy is administered by a single injection of an amniotic fluid derived growth factor. This procedure is done in office under ultrasound guidance to insure the proper area is targeted. The patient is then allowed to walk out of the office the same day. We typically have patients avoid strenuous activity for about 2 weeks, but allow them to gradually get back to activity over the next 4. We expect patients to return to same level of activity in about 6 weeks. That's 50% faster than with most surgical procedures.

If a patient is interested in learning more or proceeding with this, how would they do so? One could simply log on to our website or call our office 843.856.5337 to set up an office visit. At that time, we discuss their particular condition assess whether this therapy is appropriate and include all alternatives. If they were desirous of moving forward, we would set up a time to perform the injection.

Dr. Rahn A. Ravenell

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