More Active Adults Turning to Orthobiologic Stem Cell and PRP Treatment Alternatives
Doctor John Brannan grew up and trained as an orthopaedist in the greater Cincinnati area. In 1995, he began his local medical practice treating spine and neck injuries. He joined Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in 1998, among the early members of the forward-thinking medical group. Over time, he has added specialties in clinical spine medicine, sports medicine, rehabilitation, electrodiagnosis, and, most recently, regenerative medicine. As an early practitioner of the Regenexx family of procedures, Dr. Brannan has been instrumental in introducing the exciting field of regenerative medicine to his practice.
“As I observed my partners using stem cells and PRP (platelet-rich plasma) for joints, knees, and ankles, I became more interested in regenerative medicine for spine care, which is my primary practice. Since that time, regenerative medicine has become a well-accepted treatment across many disciplines, with major gains in numerous joint treatments. The spine is one of many frontiers. It is an intervention that fills a gap for that person who doesn’t need a major operation but has had less success with more traditional treatments.”
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Although this family of procedures has been around for over a decade, many consider it groundbreaking. Dr. Brannan calls it a “different spoke or rail” in orthopaedic treatment philosophy, a rare medical paradigm shift that gets away from opioids and other anti-inflammatory medicine while still addressing the issue of pain relief and a return to greater movement.
“The risks are much less than surgery, where people can have negative outcomes,” he explains. “The cost is also significantly less. Where a single surgical operation can cost between $10,000 and $25,000 at an Ambulatory Surgery Center, and sometimes upwards of $50,000 at a hospital, this treatment rarely exceeds $5,000. The recovery time is also shorter: we knock off weeks of rehabilitation since there is no incision.”
Dr. Brannan acknowledges that there are still considerations to make. Insurance companies – though they may encourage this approach – have yet to offer coverage for most orthobiologic injections. There is also plenty more research to be done toward predicting outcomes accurately, as the number of patients who receive regenerative injections is vastly outweighed by those receiving joint replacements. Naturally, some traditional practitioners are critical of the treatment, though Dr. Brannan points out that patients don’t “burn any bridges” in receiving this treatment, because they can always return to a surgical or biomedical procedure.
“New patients often think that it is more painful, takes a long time, or is not scientifically valid,” says Dr. Brannan. “But the truth is, the pain is quite minimal, and most patients are active again much sooner than they would be after surgery. As for scientific legitimacy, we work with Regenexx, a highly regarded, fully regulated company based in Colorado, so everything is well documented and regulated.”
Dr. Brannan sees a significant upward trend in Regenexx procedures, for which only he and his Beacon Orthopaedics colleagues are approved as providers in the region. Typical patients are between 30 and 55, working, and have interests in participation sports, outdoor recreation, and an active family lifestyle. They tend to take good care of themselves with regular exercise and have no desire for a pain medication regimen to treat an injury or nagging problem. In many cases, the damage is from a combination of aging and overuse.
“The person who comes to see me receives a comprehensive physical, a full review of current data, and a series of specific evaluations, followed by a full explanation about the stem cell or PRP procedure and what to expect afterwards. Is it a miracle cure? No, but the vast majority of our patients have been satisfied by this potential for improvement and return to their otherwise healthy and active lifestyles.”
To illustrate his point, Dr. Brannan refers to one recent 35-year-old patient who was in so much back pain he couldn’t lift his toddler-aged children above his waist anymore. He had been a vigorous athlete, but years of physical stress had led to three degenerative discs in his back. When he returned for a check-up three months after his procedure, he proclaimed that he could lift his kids again and was also returning to competitive adult athletics for the first time in several years.
“It is becoming an alternative to a lot of different operations,” Dr. Brannan explains. “Orthobiologics is an alternative to everything from joint replacement to spinal fusion surgery, even to sports-related ligament tears of the knee. Yet people just talk about stem cells, stem cells, stem cells. There are other procedures like PRP, where we draw platelets from the patient’s own blood, and those results are also significant. In short, you don’t always need stem cells.”
Even as his practice grows Dr. Brannan encourages potential patients to look closely at his work and at Regenexx, a fully vetted company with transparent data that anyone can access online. As one of the closed network’s few approved doctors, his growing spinal treatment practice at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine offers a serious cost and medical alternative to traditional surgeries and other treatments. Visit the Beacon Orthopaedics-Regenexx website to learn more.