Cyle Cavett is an extremely active 41-year-old man who had slowed to a shuffle because his hip was giving him a lot of trouble.
In his search for assistance, he ultimately decided on cell therapy at Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Fargo, North Dakota. Since then he has returned to living a life he feared he had left behind for good.
That life, among other things, includes racquetball, soccer, running, skating and keeping up with a pair of young children. Much of it was gone and now it’s all back.
“Before the therapy I didn’t know if I would ever get to the point where I wouldn’t be in pain all the time,” Cavett said. “It’s been amazing since I had the injection that I don’t have that pain.”
In the beginning stages of his discomfort, he had conversations with several providers about his hip but they had not agreed on a treatment plan.
Couldn’t ignore hip pain
Meanwhile, Cavett was sure he didn’t want to permanently curtail his activities, nor did he didn’t want to be the guy in his 40s who was walking around with a new hip. Yet at the same time, he knew he needed to do something. The pain he was experiencing wasn’t going to give him the option to ignore it.
“I would have to strategically map out how I would go into a grocery store,” Cavett said. “It would be ‘OK, I can only go down so many aisles before the pain is going to get so bad I can’t walk anymore and I’ll have to sit down.’”
There is a lot of stuff he can do now that he couldn’t do before getting cell therapy. In Cavett’s world, buying groceries without a having a strategic plan didn’t seem like a big deal until he couldn’t do it.
“Little things like that were consuming my mind all the time,” Cavett said. “Now I don’t have that issue anymore. The issue I have now is that I notice if it hurts during the day. Before, I would notice those moments when it wasn’t hurting.”
Cavett’s circumstances are worth a look within the framework of regenerative medicine and cell therapy. It’s an area of medical care that uses regenerative cells to treat diseased and damaged tissues. Most commonly this type of treatment is used to treat osteoarthritis, but it can also help with acute and chronic tendon injuries and ligament injuries.
The procedure involves extracting regenerative cells, then isolating them and injecting the cells into the same patient to repair tissue and speed up healing.
“Basically, what we’re doing is taking cells, which haven’t differentiated yet, to harness the body’s own healing abilities,” said Jason Sharp, D.O., who specializes in sports medicine at Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. “We want to bring in good inflammation in order to help heal.”
Cell therapy from bone marrow
While it’s not well understood what these cells are doing, it may help with the pain and the symptoms of arthritis or tendon injuries.
Cavett’s problem is with osteoarthritis, a condition where the cartilage in the joints declines over time. When the cushioning cartilage wears away, it creates a bone-on-bone condition that can lead to the kind of discomfort that Cavett was suffering from.
His treatment involved bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC), a component in a process that takes bone marrow from the back of the pelvis. It was then separated in a centrifuge to produce a concentration of regenerative cells. With help from an ultrasound to locate the exact affected area, the cells were then injected into Cavett’s hip.
“The hope was to have the injection either slow the progression for Cyle or help with the healing,” said Shara Diers, a Sanford Health physician assistant who works in orthopedics and sports medicine. “We wanted to give him some fluidity back in his joint, improve function and decrease pain.”
Cavett’s decision to try cell therapy began with a conversation with Diers, who explained the process and how it could possibly give him an opportunity to postpone a hip replacement.
“Cyle looked at it as a last resort,” Diers said. “At his age he was not ready to go down that path. He really wanted to try something – anything – that would give him some relief or some longevity of that joint so he could put off total hip replacement.”
Ensuring cell therapy is safe
Those contemplating cell therapy at Sanford Health hear about the science of the procedure, learning what regenerative medicine is and what it is not. Cavett listened to Diers, considered all his options, and decided he owed it to himself to try it.
“I was advised that if I had a hip replacement now I would probably be looking at two or three more in my lifetime,” Cavett said. “That didn’t excite me at all. A lot of it was just intuition – I just didn’t feel right with the idea of getting a hip replacement.”
Sanford’s regenerative efforts are safe, FDA-compliant and utilize the latest research techniques. Caregivers do not guarantee patients that cell therapy will provide complete relief. Instead, they present it as an alternative that has helped many patients.
Typically, treatments like Cavett received are not suggested until other nonsurgical options have failed to help. That includes physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications.
Cavett’s procedure began in the morning. The orthobiologics medical team took cells from Cavett’s bone and those cells were then processed and injected back into Cavett later in the day. The typical wait is three or four hours from taking the cells out to putting them back in. There is no hospitalization.
What to expect after cell therapy
Recovery time varies. Many people report pain relief within a few weeks.
“We need to make sure patients know that if it does work, it may not last forever,” Dr. Sharp said. “It might help for a couple years, though. If those years mean you’re putting off surgery and you’re in a better spot, that’s great. And some people can get a lifetime of benefit from it.”
Count Cavett among those who are definitely in a better spot. Because of his therapy, next summer is now looking more exciting than it once did for his family.
“When I was little my parents would take us to Colorado and we’d go hiking,” Cavett said. “I’m in my early 40s – am I going to be able to go hiking with my little kids? That was one of my fears about my hip. I didn’t think that was going to be a possibility, but now I’m not worried about that at all. I know it’s going to happen.”
Dr. Sharp advises those who are interested in a possible cell therapy procedure to schedule an appointment at Sanford Orthopedics & Sports Medicine with Shara Diers.
“I think this is going to be the future of medicine,” Dr. Sharp said. “I think we’ll be able to put off more and more replacements and therefore hopefully more and more revisions of replacements, especially for the younger people. When you have to revise a replacement it gets harder and harder. We are giving people another option that may not include surgery.”
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