Having been in private practice for 25 years, I’ve learned a thing or two. And for the record I don’t work for Farmer’s Insurance.
My career began about the time MRI scans showed up and that was absolutely amazing stuff! The advent of this particular imaging study really changed how we were able to diagnose injuries. Since then I have been blessed to see some of the most exciting orthopedic and medical innovations become part of our every day practice routine. This includes high-powered antibiotics, powerful chemotherapeutics, enhanced imaging studies such as 3D reconstructions, the early detection of cancers, the widespread use of robotics and arthroscopic intervention, the advent of long lasting non-allergenic metals for joint replacement surgery, reverse total shoulder replacement and dozens of other positive quality of life improving treatment options that just over 2 decades ago were not available.
None of these are as potentially exciting as the use of stem cell therapy – also known as regenerative medicine. The potential application of these magnificent treatment options are barely scratching the surface.
By harnessing the body’s natural ability to renew itself in some ways might be the proverbial Fountain of Youth that Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon so desperately sought in his travels through Florida in the 16th century. He was obviously on to something since everybody over the age of 65 seems to move there looking for it.
These exciting and novel new approaches are gaining somewhat greater acceptance by the orthopedic community at large but there is still a long way to go. Unfortunately, very few orthopedic physicians and surgeons are willing to engage in the use of these treatment protocols despite being useful and therapeutically beneficial.
As a practicing surgeon I always look for reasons not to operate as we should. This might be considered a luxury for those of us who have remained in private practice and independent of the large box chain hospitals. Nonetheless, the use of stem cells and regenerative medicine techniques and its acceptance is growing. I am proud to say that our practice has had good success with the application of these regenerative techniques under the appropriate circumstances which has led to many of our patients being able to avoid surgical intervention. It is true that ultimately surgery might be inevitable, however, “Bright lights and cold steel” doesn’t always have to happen. There is potentially another way and I believe you owe it to yourself to have this discussion with someone (like me) who believes that surgery should always be the last resort. If you don’t, one day you will turn 65 and end up in Florida with all the other blue hairs looking for the Fountain of Youth. They don’t call Florida, “The Total Joint Capital Of the World” without reason. Just Sayin’.
Jonathan Paley MD
PS: Coming soon in future blogs we will discuss the various types of regenerative medicine presently available that are FDA approved in the United States and their differences, applications, and the potential results one should expect. Stay tuned.