The headline above is taken from an article written in the Sunday New York Times Health section by Elisabeth Rosenthal and appearing on the front page. The article is based on the experience of a man who was covered by health insurance but excluded his degenerative disease of the hip because it was related to an old sports injury; the condition was considered pre-existing and therefore his healthcare Indemnification would not cover a hip replacement. The article describes the patient having traveled for his surgery to Belgium for a fraction of the out-of-pocket expense that it would have cost in the USA. In Belgium, he not only received the same prosthesis that he would have received in the USA, he learned that the joint replacement corporation that manufactured the implant is based in the town in which he lives.
Hip and Knee Replacement vs. Stem Cell Therapy
What is necessary for the patient population to recognize is that that the entire concept of a joint replacement for arthritis may no longer headline news. This past July as many of you know, I presented a scientific paper comparing the one year results of stem cell intervention for arthritis with the one-year outcomes of hip and knee replacement. What was demonstrated is that a patient with grade 3 arthritis of the knee actually does better at one year after a stem cell intervention than a patient who undergoes a total knee replacement. As far as the hip is concerned, while the joint replacement at the hip offers a higher degree of pain relief, a stem cell intervention for grade three arthritis of the hip allows for a much higher degree of functional capacity and athletic participation than an artificial joint. If you take into account the virtual absence of complication and the minimally invasive short-term rehabilitation of stem cell treatment for arthritis as compared to joint replacement, there may be no cost effective comparison. The stem cell intervention not only relieves pain and increases motion; it has the potential to reverse the arthritic process. The long term downside possibility of a stem cell procedure is a joint replacement. The long term risk in a joint replacement is a revision surgical procedure at three times the initial cost.
I am running out of space, but if cellular orthopedics to date has the potential to markedly diminish the number of joint replacements being done, I can’t wait to share with you next week, the possibilities inherent in the next generation of stem cell management for arthritis that I will be introducing in my practice this month.