Total joint replacement of the hip or knee is often considered to be a straightforward and accepted approach to treatment for those suffering from significant arthritis or injury in knee and hip joints. These procedures have become more and more common, and their success rates are reasonable considering the remarkably invasive nature of the procedure (depending on how you define success). It seems that the idea of opening up a large incision in the body and performing a complete replacement of bone has gained a level of acceptance among the general population. What was once considered a last-resort attempt to maintain joint function has now become something that almost seems inevitable for us as we age.
But what about an alternative that could be just as successful as joint replacement, but with significantly lower risk and dramatically different levels of intrusion into the human body? When comparing two options, wouldn’t a treatment that involves an injection be significantly more attractive than going under the knife and swapping out large amounts of the body’s natural bone tissue with synthetic materials?
At a recent Orthobiologic conference in Los Angeles, Dr. Mitchell Sheinkop, a Chicago Regenexx Network provider, presented findings that reflected exactly this dynamic when comparing total joint replacement with Regenexx same day stem cell treatments.
Dr. Sheinkop is an orthopedic surgeon who used to perform many knee and hip replacements. Like some surgeons, he became concerned about the extreme invasiveness of these procedures and significant complications, such as an increased chance for stroke and heart attack with hip replacement, as well as the negative effects of wear particles within artificial joints. As a result, he wanted to compare the Regenexx-SD stem cell procedure for hip and knee arthritis patients, which involves an exacting injection of the patient’s own stem cells, to the data he had collected on joint replacement patients in 2007. His full knee and hip arthritis stem cell presentation can be viewed here. A few of the key findings are outlined below.
A few summary findings associated with hip arthritis patients:
- 73% of the Regenexx-SD hip arthritis patients returned to sporting activities
- Regenexx-SD hip patients ended up with more range of motion than hip replacement patients at 1 year after the procedure
- Regenexx-SD hip arthritis patients had similar functional scores at one year as the hip replacement patients
A few more findings related to knee arthritis patients:
- The Regenexx-SD patients had similar physician assessment scores compared to the knee replacement patients at 1 year, with Regenexx-SD edging out the knee replacements (Knee Society Assessment Score)
- Regenexx-SD patients had significantly better functional scores compared to knee replacement patients at 1 year (Knee Society Function Score)
Some caveats of this data: First, this wasn’t a randomized controlled trial like one would see in drug studies. That’s not yet available for stem cell procedures nor for joint replacements (believe it or not). In addition, the knee and hip replacement patients in these studies tended to be a bit more impacted at start than the stem cell patients. Finally, this is a comparison of patients treated in 2007 with surgery and patients treated in 2011-13 with stem cells, so while it uses the same metrics for both, the patients weren’t treated side by side. It should also be noted that we didn’t fund this study, Dr. Sheinkop completed it on his own using his own staff.
But regardless of these caveats, this early study would indicate that when you take into consideration the invasiveness of total joint replacement, stem cell therapy is a very viable option to consider. If the long term results of the two procedures seem to be comparable then we can assume that the procedure that does NOT involve opening up the body and doing a wholesale joint replacement would win out in the eyes of the patient. This is very exciting news at Regenexx and we expect to find more data in the months and years ahead that supports our wholehearted belief that the natural tissues of the human body, when coaxed along in the right ways, have huge potential to revolutionize the way we treat joint injuries and chronic arthritis.