Maintaining an active lifestyle has always been important to Thomas Pittman.

Despite having multiple surgeries on his medial meniscus, he had a hard time walking or doing activities that involved bearing weight on his left knee due to pain; and he knew he wanted to avoid a knee replacement so he could continue to do the things he enjoyed most in life. So, he turned to Orlando Orthopaedic Center’s Bryan L. Reuss, M.D., to further explore his options.

“He’s an active gentleman who wanted to remain active, and it was really bumming him out that he couldn’t because of the condition of his knee,” says Dr. Reuss, who is double board certified in both orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine. “He is relatively young with a highly active lifestyle, and he wanted to avoid a knee replacement.”

For Thomas, Dr. Reuss suggested stem cell injections instead of a knee replacement so he could avoid another surgery on his already arthritic knee.

Several months after the procedure, Thomas says he is back to cycling regularly, walking miles around big cities for work and is satisfied with his decision to forego surgery in favor of stem cell therapy.

PRP plasma mixture being created during the procedure.

PRP plasma mixture being created during the procedure.

“The pain hasn’t been noticeable. It’s been a big change in my life,” he says.

The state-of-the-art, minimally invasive stem cell treatment falls under the banner of regenerative medicine along with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, two methods used to treat patients of all ages and activity levels without surgery.

Stem cells essentially heal the body on their own by using either the patient’s healthy regenerative bone marrow or allograft stem cell tissue from a donor to spark tissue regeneration, allowing the body to heal on its own without drugs or surgical intervention. The surgeon injects these cells directly into the damaged tissue and the cells grow to replace the injured or old cells.

Stem cell and PRP therapy may work to treat many different types of orthopaedic issues including:

  • Low back and neck pain due to disc degeneration
  • Knee, hip, and other joint osteoarthritis
  • Chronic partial rotator cuff tears
  • Tennis elbow
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Partial quadriceps and patellar tendon tears
  • Partial muscle tears and joint instability
  • Cartilage (meniscal) tears in the knee
  • Muscle strains
  • Other chronic tendon and ligament problems

What to Expect After Stem Cell Treatment

The stem cell treatment is nonsurgical and therefore does not involve the risks typically associated with surgery or anesthesia. Patients may experience pain or soreness in the post-procedure period at the injection site (for Thomas, his knee was sore for a few days after the procedure).

If a patient’s job doesn’t involve a lot of physical activity, they can normally return to work within a day or so. For the first four to six weeks following the injection, Dr. Reuss suggests refraining from taking anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and instead says applying an ice pack or resting to relieve any lingering discomfort.

“Repair and growth of connective tissues requires time. Patients normally see improvement after two weeks and continue to notice incremental improvement in the months following treatment,” says Dr. Reuss.

Thomas says his recovery was gradual but distinct. After three months, he says he was able to walk and perform duties at work without pain.

“Tom experienced pretty early and immediate relief of his symptoms. He could walk better, stand better and get around his house better. He was riding his bicycle about a month after surgery,” Dr. Reuss says, although he says the recovery timetable is slightly different for every patient.  

“I would highly recommend stem cell, and then from a personal experience I would not trade the relationship I have with Dr. Reuss,” Thomas says. “I highly recommend Dr. Reuss and his team for whatever orthopaedic needs somebody has.”