Choosing between Stem Cells and Surgery for Joints

Choosing between Stem Cells and Surgery for Joints

Stem cells vs surgery signpost

Here’s what you need to know…

  • It’s normal for patients to consider conservative joint treatments (i.e. physiotherapy, chiropractic, pain medications etc.) before considering stem cells or surgery.
  • Simply obtaining a medical scan of your afflicted joint(s) significantly increases your treatment options around the world.
  • SkyGen proudly offers Australian and New Zealand residents a number of options for orthopaedic stem cell treatments and orthopaedic surgery to treat their joint conditions.
  • There are many factors that contribute to the patient’s decision-making process, including: age, general health, medical budget, employment status and lifestyle.

When conservative therapies don’t work

When physical therapy and pain medications aren’t enough to manage pain or mobility, patients typically start exploring less conservative options.

If you’re a typical patient suffering from joint pain, you’ll consider exploring stem cell treatment and surgical options for your joint(s) when:
– Your joint pain persists despite regular physical therapy such as physiotherapy or chiropractic, or
– Your daily tasks are difficult unless you take heavy pain or anti-inflammatory medications, or
– You have difficulties sleeping or sitting for long periods
– You regularly avoid simple physical activities and an active lifestyle

Choosing between Orthopaedic Stem Cell Treatments and Orthopaedic Surgery

There are many situations in which our patients will decide upon a certain treatment approach to their joint condition. This will be influenced by both the severity of the affected joint and the patient’s preference to a surgical or regenerative approach to treatment. These situations and options are discussed below.

Why choose Orthopaedic Stem Cell Treatments:

stem cell image final

Patients who pursue Stem Cell treatments do so for a number of reasons. If you are a typical patient considering stem cell repair of your joints:

a) You prefer to regenerate a joint rather than replace it, or

SkyGen patients pursue minimally invasive stem cell treatments to give them best possible chance at regenerating their joint and removing/putting off the requirement for serious joint surgery. Patient expectations are discussed and all patients know that they still have a surgical approach available in the future.

Please note: While we know that joint stem cell treatments work, and that stem cell treatments for joints are safe, not all stem cell treatments are equal. These treatments are much more advanced at established international clinics. To see the benefits of treatment at our partnered stem cell clinic in Bangkok, click here.

b) You consider yourself too young for joint replacement surgery, or

For patients under 65 years, orthopaedic surgeons usually recommend to put off joint replacement surgery as long as possible. This is because joint replacement surgery is invasive, and the usual life-span of the prosthetic joint implant is 10-15 years, with revision surgery being complicated. Generally only one revision can be performed, and patient’s life expectancy come into the equation.

c) You have multiple joints requiring medical treatment, or

Patients seeking regenerative stem cell treatment for their joints can easily have multiple joints treated at the same time. In this case the plastic surgeon and cell biologist would simply collect and procure more stem cells for the treating orthopaedic surgeon to accurately inject into other joints. The approximate increase in cost is 20% per additional joint only. If multiple joints (two knees, two hips or more) are heading towards requiring replacement, the stem cell treatment option is more affordable and less traumatic to the patients body.

d) You’re unable to undergo surgery for medical reasons, or

As joint replacement surgery is both invasive and traumatic to the body, some patients have underlying disease or conditions which exclude them from having serious surgery.

Example: A patient has a problem with their heart or other vital organs whereby they cannot be placed under General Anaesthetic, or they have a blood condition which causes excessive bleeding.

e) You have an autoimmune disease such as Rheumatoid Arthritis or Ankylosing Spondylitis, or

These patients usually have joint degeneration at multiple sites including the hands, feet and spine. Traditional joint surgery only addresses joint damage and not the the underlying disease which can cause more damage after surgery. Autologous Stem Cell Therapy is an accepted treatment modality for these diseases due to its immunoregulatory and joint regenerative qualities.

f) You’re required to be physically active as a part of your employment, or

The life-span of a prosthetic joint implant will be influenced by the load and stress which is placed on it. Patients who are physically active on a daily basis as part of their job are recommended to change their working conditions after joint replacement surgery to prolong the life of their joint implant. We have spoken to patients who have had a prosthetic joint fail on them prematurely and required revision/replacement surgery after only 6 years. This was attributed to excessive wear of the implant.

Example: A patient is aged 45 and works on a construction site or as a fly-in fly-out miner. He has severe joint degeneration caused by a lifetime of wear and tear. Joint replacement surgery is not recommended due to his young age, as well as the stress put onto the new joint under his physical working conditions. Usually he would be told to take heavy pain medications every day until eventually the pain became unbearable and joint replacement was the only option. This patient now has regenerative stem cell treatment alternatives through SkyGen.

g) You’re a sportsperson or professional athlete, or

Sportspeople and athletes have rigorous training and competing routines. Serious joint surgery can require months of recovery time, which can lead to the athlete spending whole seasons on the sideline. Stem cell treatment is effective in cases of ongoing wear and tear, and some cases of traumatic injury. However, cases of traumatic injury involving complete severance of ligaments or tendons will require orthopaedic surgery.

h) You have no intention to undergo invasive joint replacement surgery

Some people just don’t like the idea of serious joint surgery or replacement. This may be because someone close to them had a bad surgical outcome, or they are uncomfortable with the idea of serious surgery. We have observed this is more prevalent in cases requiring spinal surgery and fusion, due to the risk of losing range of motion and damage to nearby nerve tissues. However each case is unique, so it’s important to be aware of all treatment options.

Example: A patient has a serious herniated or bulging spinal disc in their lower back. They do not want to consider surgery (Microdiscectomy or Spinal Fusion) because they think that follow up operations and loss of spinal movement is likely. SkyGen patients in this situation can pursue stem cell treatment by a qualified and skilled neurosurgeon to deliver their own stem cells accurately and safely to the affected spinal joint areas.

Why choose Orthopaedic Surgery:

surgery image
As with patients considering Orthopaedic Stem Cell Treatments, those who prefer to have a joint replaced by a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon do so for one or more of the following reasons. If you are a typical candidate for orthopaedic joint replacement surgery:

a) The condition of your joint is beyond the scope of stem cell treatments, or

Some patients may have a joint that is so severely damaged that the only option is orthopaedic surgery. The orthopaedic surgeons at our partnered stem cell clinics will advise if this is the case, and the orthopaedic surgeons at our international hospitals can also confirm this. There are certain circumstances in which joint surgery is required, such as traumatic injuries where serious joint damage and complete severance of ligaments and tendons has occurred.

Please note: Patients who’s joints are diagnosed as ‘bone on bone’ have been effectively treated with stem cells. Other joint conditions may affect the likelihood of a patient’s suitability for treatment. In every case, only patients who have a very high likelihood of benefiting from treatment are approved as candidates by the orthopaedic specialists.

b) You require revision of a previous joint surgery, or

Patients may have had a previous joint surgery that has been unsuccessful at their local hospital, and may require follow up revision surgery. They may also have already had a joint replaced, and the titanium implant used is at the end of its life-span and has failed. If required, revision surgery can be performed at our partnered international hospitals by their experienced surgeons. In cases like this, stem cell treatments are usually ineffective.

c) You are over 65 years of age and prefer a traditional medical approach to treating you joint(s)

Some older patients are well within the age bracket where orthopaedic surgeons are comfortable to perform serious surgery or replace their joints. They may have had previous joint surgery with a particular surgeon and feel comfortable pursuing further surgery. These patients also prefer a traditional and widely accepted approach to treating their degenerative joint condition that is not considered ‘experimental’ like stem cell therapy.

*Please read: Although the information provided on this page may describe a particular patient experience and/or outcome, readers must understand that each patient presents with a unique medical history and may be recommended a different treatment/surgery by their surgeon to that described above. Individual results may vary between surgery centre/hospital, surgeon, surgery type and patient. Although SkyGen agrees to share all updates from patients at their request, SkyGen does not endorse any physical activities attempted by patients following surgery which do not follow the explicit instructions provided by their surgeon. SkyGen encourages all patients to discuss the risks of such activities with medical professionals before attempting these themselves.

Written by SkyGen Public Relations

This content is copyright and property of SkyGen Spinal & Orthopaedic. It was written to educate our patients in making informed decisions regarding their own healthcare. SkyGen is Australia's largest international collaboration between world class regenerative medicine clinics and orthopaedic hospitals.