Arizona Advanced Medicine Clinic

Stem Cell Therapy for Arthritic Knees

Progression of Osteoarthritis

Replace your knee surgically and increase your risk of heart attack 8 fold?

Or don't replace your knee and live in pain?

Are there no other options?

An article published in the Sept 2015 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatology describes the authors' attempt to confirm the conclusion that total knee replacement surgery reduces the risk of heart attack among patients with osteoarthritis.1 In fact, they demonstrated just the opposite. Patients who had their knee joints replaced are 8 times more likely to have a heart attack in the first month after surgery than patients who just suffered with their painful arthritis.

Admittedly, the study endpoints were different in the two studies.

The study they were attempting to confirm[2] measured cumulative risk of stroke or heart attack within 3 years of the time they had their knee surgery - or when they died, whichever came first.

The second study measured risk within one month of surgery. And in that case, the risk of heart attack was substantially higher for those who had the surgery. By the end of 6 months after surgery, the risk had levelled out and was comparable to those who were treated without surgery.

Knee Surgery

None of the currently available (and covered by insurance) therapies has been shown to provide any substantial benefit in preventing the progression of degenerative joint disease.[3, 4] Current therapies include (a) decreasing your level of activity, (b) taking pain medication, (c) losing weight and (d) if all else fails, knee surgery to replace the joint. The currently accepted therapies do not include modification of diet to exclude inflammatory foods, or of emotional techniques to decrease anger and facilitate forgiveness of ancient wrongs. Nor do they include more advanced physical techniques like stem cell therapy, despite all the recent work that has been done in this arena.

Is there nothing more effective? What about stem cell therapy?

If the risk of myocardial infarction is indeed substantially increased after total knee or total hip replacement, would it not make more sense to try stem cell therapy on the joints first? Stem cell therapy is considered to be experimental, i.e. not yet adopted as "standard of care" by the medical establishment, and therefore typically not covered by insurance. Knee or hip replacement, on the other hand, is considered to be “standard of care”, not experimental, and thus typically covered by insurance.

Knee Joint Injection

Stem cell therapy has been shown to improve both the architecture and the function of arthritic knee joints, eliminating - or, at the very least postponing - the need for complete knee replacement.[5, 6]

Stem cell therapy has also been shown to improve outcomes in a condition known as osteonecrosis of the femoral head[7] - the hip joint degenerates and the bone dies, to the point where walking is no longer possible, for reasons not necessarily related to infection or injury.

So... on the one hand a moderately expensive procedure which stands an excellent chance of restoring joint function and relieving pain. That would be stem cell therapy, given by simple knee joint injection.

On the other hand a very expensive procedure with substantial co-pays (typically 20% of the total hospital bill) which has an 8-fold increase in risk of heart attack during the month following the procedure, but whose immediate expense is covered by insurance. You don't see the bill until later. That would be conventional insurance-covered and medical standard of care therapy. Stem cell therapy has good success is relieving the pain and restoring joint function in arthritic joints.

To read more about stem cells, click here.

You do the research. You make the decision.

If you are interested in more information, call the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine at 480-240-2600 to schedule a free 15-minute appointment with one of our practitioners.

[1] Lu N, Misra D, Neogi T, Choi HK and Zhang YQ. Total Joint Arthroplasty and the Risk of Myocardial Infarction – A General Population, Propensity Score-Matched Cohort Study. Arthritis and Rheumatology published online 08-31-15. DOI: 10.1002/art.39246

Stem cell therapy has also been shown to improve outcomes in a condition known as osteonecrosis of the femoral head[7] - the hip joint degenerates and the bone dies, to the point where walking is no longer possible, for reasons not necessarily related to infection or injury.

So... on the one hand a moderately expensive procedure which stands an excellent chance of restoring joint function and relieving pain. That would be stem cell therapy, given by simple knee joint injection.

On the other hand a very expensive procedure with substantial co-pays (typically 20% of the total hospital bill) which has an 8-fold increase in risk of heart attack during the month following the procedure, but whose immediate expense is covered by insurance. You don't see the bill until later. That would be conventional insurance-covered and medical standard of care therapy. Stem cell therapy has good success is relieving the pain and restoring joint function in arthritic joints.

To read more about stem cells, click here.

You do the research. You make the decision.

If you are interested in more information, call the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine at 480-240-2600 to schedule a free 15-minute appointment with one of our practitioners.

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