Stem Cell Therapy vs. Total Knee Replacement
Up until the latest developments came into play the last several years, older adults with arthritic or poorly functioning knees have only had further deterioration and total knee replacement in their future. As a knee surgeon from a practice like the Premier Osteoarthritis Centers of Pennsylvania can explain, knee replacement surgery, like most other surgeries, carries substantial risks, may have an extended hospital stay, and one to two months of healing and physical therapy to boot.
For some patients, this process is painful and challenging. People with active lifestyles may be forced to give up specific high-impact activities for the rest of their lives. But, stem cell intervention may change traditional knee treatment routines and enable patients to return to their daily lives and activities with less pain and movement restriction.
What is Stem Cell Therapy?
Stem cell therapy can be a viable alternative to total joint replacement and other surgical interventions. In this procedure, a patient’s own stem cells are harvested, minimally processed, and injected back into the injured or arthritis-damaged joint. Adult stem cells have the unique ability to transform into different types of cells and may be able to create new cartilage in the knee.
A Comparison of Recovery Times
One of the biggest reasons that stem cell therapy has gained such popularity is its quick recovery time. Stem cell therapy is an outpatient procedure, so there is typically no need for an uncomfortable and risky (in terms of infection) hospital stay.
After stem cell injection, most patients can walk around within 24 hours. A recovering stem cell patient may also wear a knee brace for a short time. There may be a low level of soreness in the joint several days to a week after the injection.
Once injected, the stem cells go to work repairing and regenerating tissue. It may take up to about three weeks for improvement to set in and repair and progress may continue for up to six months or so. Some patients may need additional injections—possible two or three in a year’s time.
On the other hand, knee surgery patients will typically spend a couple of days in the hospital after undergoing an invasive, extensive surgical alteration. A hospital stay can pose a significant staph infection risk. Once discharged from the hospital patients may have to go to a rehab facility for a time, or go home and undergo a regimen of outpatient physical therapy, which may consist of:
- Walking to regain mobility
- Knee-strengthening exercise
- Slowly resuming normal daily activities
Additionally, knee surgery has other possible risks, including:
- Heart attack
- Blood clots (leg or lungs)
- Nerve damage
Plus, driving is usually restricted for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Certain weight-bearing activities may put too much pressure on the knee implant and must be avoided.
You may be wondering if stem cell therapy can help you. Your knee pain specialist can discuss all treatment options with you and make suggestions as to which treatments can help you the most.