In today's world knee placements are as common as blue skies.
In 2015, for example, 800,000 knee replacement surgeries were performed in the United States, and it’s expected that by 2030, there will be three million done per year.
We can thank an aging population for that. Some doctors are taking an alternative approach that uses the patient’s own stem cells to restore natural healing.
Dr. Noel Peterson in Lake Oswego explains that the process involves harvesting stem cells from a patient’s own adipose tissue and bone marrow because they have the most abundant source of stem cells in the entire body. It’s not the controversial embryonic stem cells, but a therapy that treats joint regeneration, relieves pain and helps patients return to a longer and more active life.
“There are many stem cell ‘clinics’ that have sprung up in the last year in Portland that are run by acupuncturists and chiropractors that conduct ‘seminars,’ really infomercials, on stem cells where they sell patients on injections of placenta or umbilical cord or Wharton’s jelly tissue telling them these contain live stem cells,” Peterson says. “These tissues are sold to these clinics by sales reps of companies that sprang up to re-package vials of tissues that are taken during live hospital births, treated with chemicals to preserve them, frozen, and repackaged in vials and sold to these clinics as stem cells.”
The FDA strictly forbids any injection of live cells into a patient unless the cells are derived from the patient’s own body, he adds. Peterson uses stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma to treat osteoarthritic, athletic injuries, traumatic brain injuries, male- and female-patterned baldness, post-concussion syndrome and aging issues.
Cost for the therapy ranges from $2,000 to $6,000 and is not covered by most insurance. More than 40 percent of the 60 and older population has osteoarthritis of the knee, Peterson says, and most of his patients have been told surgery or joint replacement is the only option. Conversely, he has been able to achieve restoration of pain-free function without surgery or joint replacement.
He cites a study by Virginia Commonwealth University showing that 44 percent of knee replacements were medically unnecessary. Before he starts a stem cell treatment, Peterson does a complete exam and reviews any lab tests.
Stem-cell therapy is a one-time treatment and does not require anesthesia, he says.
A ‘significant change’
Mary Kroske, 67, and Jean Fairbanks, 72, recently traveled to Vietnam’s Mekong River, where they frequently were getting in and out of small boats.
An active golfer, Kroske would need two days to recover because of the pain in her joints after playing nine holes. When she heard about stem cell therapy, she did her research and was impressed with what she learned.
“In three months I saw significant change and by six months, wonderful change,” she says of her treatment in Peterson’s office. She now climbs up and down stairs, plays golf, sleeps without pillows and does other activities. “I got my life back,” she says.
Before stem cell therapy, Kroske had tried physical therapy, chiropractic treatments and a product injected into her knee. “Stem cell treatment takes time,” she says, “because you are re-growing body parts. You have to be patient and go to a good doctor.”
They both credit stem cell treatments for making it possible to go on the Rhodes Scholar trip to Vietnam. In the past Kroske did not have good experiences with knee replacements, having had two. She did not want another. Fairbanks says the cost is worth it, especially now that she can walk long distances, kayak and use the stairs without excruciating pain.
She says the NFL has been using stem cell therapy on its players for years, and that even veterinarians have started using it. Peterson’s practice uses nonsurgical injection procedures for the permanent repair of damaged tendons, ligaments and joints.
Regenerative and biological treatments he offers are Prolotherapy, Platelet Rich Plasma PRP and stem cell therapies.
“These treatments enhance the natural cycles of repair in chronically injured joints and tendons,” he says.
Regenerative injections are effective treatment of acute and chronic pain from back and neck injuries, as well as injuries and osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, foot and ankle. Peterson also specializes in hormone therapy, which he says is a catalyst in repairing many things. In treating patients, he strongly recommends a healthy diet and exercise, but also believes genetics play a strong role in a person’s longevity and quality of life.
“There is a difference between life span and health span,” Peterson says. “What we should want is a healthier life span.”
Peterson, 67, enjoys kite surfing in the ocean, with his favorite place in a remote area of Baja California, Mexico. He also enjoys surfing in Hawaii. When he joins other kite surfers,
“I am the oldest person in the group,” he says. “I have paid attention to what I eat and exercise and I take no meds of any kind.”
He’s quick to thank his genetics as well, referring to his 87-year-old mother. He also bikes, does push-ups and a little resistance training.
“Logic tells us we are what we eat,” Peterson says. “I don’t want burgers and fries; I want steak and vegetables, fruits and nuts like walnuts.”
He says dramatic change can occur at any age, whether in weight loss, a younger appearance or improved mobility.