One of the most exciting things about medicine is that it is always changing and growing. Our understanding of the human body constantly evolves as new discoveries are made, new technologies are developed. Regenerative medicine – treatments that promote the body’s natural healing factors – is one of these relatively new discoveries. This post looks at two types of regenerative medicine, platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and amniotic cell therapy, and how they may be used to treat common foot and ankle problems.
Regenerative medicine replaces damaged tissue with healthy cells to encourage the body to heal itself. Sometimes, these healthy cells come from the patient, such as in PRP therapy. Other times, the tissues come from a donor bank, as with amniotic cell therapy. Injecting these cells into the body promotes its natural ability to generate new, healthy cells of its own. Patients typically heal more quickly and are usually able to avoid more invasive procedures like surgery.
Platelet-rich plasma is exactly what it sounds like: Plasma that is rich is platelets. A vial of the patient’s own blood is placed in a centrifuge, separating the platelet-rich plasma from the red blood cells. Research suggests that PRP helps accelerate the healing process. There are two reasons for this. First, platelets contain growth factors known as alpha granules that play a key role in your body’s healing processes. Second, injecting PRP into damaged tissues stimulates the release of stem cells, another factor that triggers your body’s healing response. A number of disciplines are turning to PRP injections for its regenerative healing properties. Two early adopters have been sports medicine and plastic surgery, but it also shows great promise in treating common podiatry issues.
PRP injections may be used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
In cases where surgery was required, patients who received PRP injections also experienced faster healing times.
Amniotic cell therapy promotes tissue growth by stimulating production of your body’s own stem cells. This triggers the body’s healing response, reducing inflammation to alleviate pain and lubricating joints for improved mobility. The cells are taken from tissues in the amniotic membrane and umbilical cord after a caesarean birth. Under the guidance of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Association of Tissue Banks uses a rigorous screening process on all donations.
Amniotic cell therapy is one of the most exciting innovations in medicine today. Some researchers think that we’ll eventually be able to replace entire organs this way. In podiatry, amniotic cell injections have been used to correct Achilles tendinitis, foot ulcers, plantar fasciitis, chronic heel pain, and tendon rupture. Healing begins immediately following the injection, with healthy tissues replacing damaged cells over several weeks or months, depending on the injury.
Although it’s been practiced since the 1990s, regenerative medicine is a relatively new treatment method. Even researchers are still asking questions. Which is, of course, how we keep learning more about the potential of regenerative medicine and the body’s power to heal itself. The following are the most frequently asked questions we see at Phoenician Foot and Ankle.
We’ve learned a lot about the possibilities of regenerative medicine due to its use as treatment for a variety of sports injuries. The following conditions respond well to regenerative medicine:
No, there are rarely any side effects from PRP injections. This is because the treatment uses the patient’s own blood. Patients may experience irritation or discomfort at the injection site, however.
There have been no reported side effects from amniotic cell therapy. As with all injections, there is risk of pain, irritation, or infection at the injection site.
Recovery time varies according to the reason for treatment. For example, PRP or amniotic cell injections to treat plantar fasciitis or the Achilles tendon typically require patients to wear a walking boot for one to two weeks. But, an injection for osteoarthritis in the ankle usually has you back to normal within 24 hours. Ask your doctor for post-procedure care instructions.
Patients may require multiple injections; much depends on the area and condition being treated. Most patients experience noticeable results within a few weeks, but healing continues for months. Expect to feel the maximum effect around six to nine months after treatment.
Like most medical treatments, PRP is not for everyone. You may not be a candidate if:
Share your complete medical history with your doctor to be sure PRP injections are safe and effective.
Unfortunately, most insurances do not cover the cost of either PRP or amniotic cell injections.
No. While amniotic cells have stem cells in them, they are what the FDA calls “terminally sterilized,” which occurs during the screening process. Amniotic cells come from the placenta and umbilical cord tissues after a live, caesarean birth. These tissues are normally discarded as waste, but patients may choose to donate them to a tissue bank. To be FDA-compliant, tissues must be processed in a way that removes all live cells. Otherwise, the product is classified and regulated as a drug.