NEW TREATMENTS FOR VETERINARY ORTHOPAEDIC CONDITIONS
So let’s say your beloved pet has developed a limp that just won’t go away and your veterinarian has diagnosed a serious musculoskeletal problem. He or she has outlined treatment options that include conservative measures such as medications, rest, physical therapy, supplements, laser therapy, and acupuncture and warns you that your pet may eventually need surgery. You are wondering: isn’t there anything else that can be done besides surgery that might remedy the problem? Regenerative medicine might be the option you are looking for. It involves the use of your pet’s own tissue and blood cells to rebuild damaged musculoskeletal tissue and decrease inflammation and pain. Scientific evidence is mounting that this can be an effective treatment for a number of common orthopedic conditions in companion animals and horses. As with all treatments for complex or chronic orthopedic problems, it is important to have a definitive diagnosis first and to employ a multimodal plan towards resolution of the problem.
But what is “Regenerative Medicine”? It involves the use of stem cells for the treatment of osteoarthritis, tendon injuries and ligament problems. Stem cells can be harvested from the fat or bone marrow and have the ability to self -renew as well as to develop into multiple types of tissue cells. For example both bone marrow and fat derived stem cells can generate bone, cartilage, fat and connective tissue. They also can make new blood vessels, reduce inflammation and fibrosis, supply growth factors and slow the natural death cycle of cells. This makes them clinically useful for promoting tissue regeneration in areas that normally heal very slowly such as joints, tendons and ligaments. The harvested stem cells are injected into the problem area along with platelet rich plasma (PRP) which acts as a ‘scaffolding’ for the stem cells as well as providing grow factors and anti-inflammatory proteins called cytokines. This treatment is often followed up with additional PRP treatments every week. There may be some temporary mild discomfort for a day afterwards that can be controlled with cold compressing and pain medication.
Platelet rich plasma is harvested from the pet’s own blood using a special centrifuge. Platelets contain active proteins that initiate and enhance the recruitment, proliferation, and differentiation of cells involved healing. They also decrease the inflammation of osteoarthritis reducing pain and improving joint function. Therefore, PRP alone can be very successful in treating tendon injuries of the shoulder and hock, ligament injuries of the knee and osteoarthritis of the hip and other joints. Usually two treatments two weeks apart are required. (Sometimes a third treatment is needed depending on the severity of the injury.) As with stem cell treatments, a dedicated rehabilitation program for two to three months following the PRP treatment will accelerate and improve successful outcomes. The use of laser therapy, acupuncture and supplements is also very beneficial.
Stem Cell and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy are very new areas of research in human medicine as well as in veterinary medicine and many studies are currently being done. Early results are very promising. As larger clinical trials document the success of Stem Cell Therapy and PRP, we can expect to see its use become more commonplace in the treatment of certain orthopedic conditions. Please feel free to discuss these options with your veterinarian should your own pet have a limp that just won’t go away!
Richard L. Godine, DVM is the owner of Ruckersville Animal Hospital & Veterinary Laser Therapy Center. Dr. Godine is a past president of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association as well as the immediate past president of the North American Association for Laser Therapy.