Knee surgery alternative

January 22, 2010 3:33:08 PM PST
Up to half of all sports injuries are tendon injuries, and sometimes they require surgery. But a new procedure is helping repair them without putting patients under the knife.Point guard Nikki Teasley spent six years in the WNBA -- and almost as long fighting a painful tendon injury in her knee. "I thought I was going to have to retire," she said. "The pain was too, too bad. You get up in the morning and I couldn't walk because I was in so much pain."

Teasley thought surgery was her only option until doctors suggested "platelet rich plasma injections." The patient's blood spins in a centrifuge to separate blood platelets from plasma and red blood cells, then under ultrasound guidance doctors inject the platelets into the injured part of the tendon.

When the platelets come into contact with the injured tendon, they attract stem cells, and these stem cells stimulate healing.

"They will cause new collagen to form and actually fill in the defect that has been caused by the overuse of the tendon," said Dr. Kenneth Mautner, who is a sports medicine specialist at the Emory Sports Medicine in Atlanta.

"After the injection, I feel like I can play 5 more years," Teasley said.

However, many experts are still not endorsing plasma therapy, and studies continue. One recent study of 54 people found that even without the therapy, patients made the same progress just exercising.

The platelet injection procedure generally costs between $750 and $1,500 when it's done in a doctor's office, and is covered by some insurance plans.

The procedure is intended for patients with tendinosis, which is degeneration of the tendon -- not tendonitis, which is inflammation.


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