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The Dreaded Pop
This is the sound athletes fear the most at the peak of performance. A twist of the knee creates a pop, followed by intense pain. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries happen to almost 200,000 Americans yearly. The ligament supports and stabilizes the knee. Choosing the right treatment, either ACL reconstruction or stem cell therapy dictates recovery.
Exploring ACL reconstruction
An ACL reconstruction, surgeons use a minimally invasive procedure. The surgeon removes the severed tendon, replacing the ACL with a tendon from the hamstring. In some cases, surgeons use a donor’s tendon. The surgeon uses an arthroscope and other small tools to repair the damage. The new tendon anchors on the surrounding bones. One completed, physical therapy starts to regain strength and flexibility.
Benefits of an ACL reconstruction
ACL reconstruction has an up to 95% success rate. Compared to traditional open surgery, patients experience less pain and recovery time. The method also means less time in the hospital and a reduced need for painkillers. Moreso, reconstruction reduces the strain on other ligaments and stops future knee issues.
ACL reconstruction drawbacks
With surgical procedures, there is always a chance of bleeding and infections. In some cases, patients need a second ACL surgery to stabilize the knee. Persons with ACL reconstruction have noticed an early onset of arthritis in the impacted knee. With any surgical method, doctors will advise patients of the possible complications involved in ACL reconstruction.
Understanding stem cells
Stem cells are the base cells of the body that multiply into the different types under the right conditions. Science has allowed stem cells to be harvested and manipulated to fit the properties of blood, bone, organs, and tissues. In recent history, stem cell therapy has had great success in treating blood-related diseases. Now, the concept is being applied to other parts of the body to cure diseases and repair tissues like the ACL.
ACL stem cell therapy in action
To complete the procedure, the patient’s stem cells must be harvested, prepared, then reinserted at the damaged ACL site. Specialists extract a sample of blood and tissue rich in stem cells, then send the samples to a lab to be cultured. Once completed, doctors inject the cells into the tendon to accelerate healing. This is a same-day procedure, usually accompanied by physical therapy over several weeks following.
One of the biggest benefits of stem cell therapy is the ability to avoid surgery altogether. Avoiding surgery means reducing recovery time even further. Many believe by helping the ACL to repair rather than replacing the tendon outright, the integrity of the tendon remains intact. This reduces the need for additional surgeries in the future.
Expectations vs reality
Stem cell therapy for tissue and tendon repair continues to be a controversial topic. Scientific research has not kept up with the rate at which stem cell therapy treat tissue and tendon damage. As a result, the therapy is expensive and not covered by insurance. In fact, many clinics are not FDA approved. Stem cell therapy alone is still ineffective in repairing a complete tear of the ACL. Stem cell therapy works, however, several key factors must work in tandem to improve success. This includes highly skilled practitioners who know how to extract, prepare, and administer the right stem cells to the damaged ACL.
Make the best decision
ACL reconstruction continues to be an effective way to repair the ligament and get back in action. Stem cell therapy has the potential to be the new gold standard in ACL reconstruction. However, too many factors inclusive of cost, skill level, and incomplete research depend on success. Patients should discuss the two methods in detail with knowledgable medical practitioners before making this decision, often a combination of minimally invasive surgery and stem cell therapy is a the best solution.