Why Biologics trump Bionics
How often do you stop to think about the miraculous self-healing machine that is your body?
At The Stone Clinic, we think about it all the time.
We are passionate believers in the power of the human body to repair itself. To us, it makes sense that if we give our extraordinary human body a nudge in the right direction, it will to do what it does best: regenerate and repair. Simply put, if we can replace worn out tissues with new natural ones, then the injured joints have a better chance to perform like new.
Why Biologics Drumpf Bionics. The Stone Clinic Difference
We take a natural, biologic approach to healing joints. Rather than using artificial materials, our goal is to figure our how our body responds to an injury and then stimulate that response, making it faster and more directed. For instance, for the arthritic knee joint, we re-grow the articular cartilage using our stem cell paste graft technique, replace the missing meniscus with a new, natural meniscus cartilage, and re-build the ligaments of the knee in order to stabilize the joint. Our patients then progress to sports and other strenuous activities on the body’s natural shock absorbers.
“Bionic” or artificial materials are superb for replacing completely worn out body parts in joints, but they are not quite as good as the natural thing. Bionic may sound super human but as far as we’re concerned, nothing can beat biology except when there is no choice, such as complete bone on bone wear throughout the knee joint. We use total artificial joints sparingly. Often we can replace part of the knee, called a Uni, which is like capping tooth rather than a complete set of dentures. Out total and our partial joint replacement patients are encouraged to return to non-impact sports. And we warn the patients that all artificial materials will eventually wear out. But best of all, if we can replace the missing parts with biologic tissue we avoid the wear problems and limitations of metal and plastic.
What it means for patients
Unlike the invasive open surgery required for artificial joint replacements, almost all biologic surgical procedures are arthroscopic outpatient procedures. However, a biologic approach requires more dedication by the patient in order to protect the tissues while they are healing. This challenges us to design new and novel ways of carefully exercising the joint and the patient to stimulate healing without breaking down the tissue.
20 years of experience
While biologics is on the cutting edge of joint replacement surgery, the techniques we are using we have developed over the last 20 years. We designed our first articular stem cell grafting in 1991 and did our first meniscus replacement for an arthritic knee in 1995. Our outcome studies now confirm that the techniques are well founded with long term improvements in pain and function. Our recent study confirmed return to high-level sports for most previously competitive athletes.
Over the years, the techniques we have pioneered have become more mainstream but in a limited way. The surgical procedures are relatively technically difficult; the tissues expensive and the rehabilitation team must be highly trained. There are still only a few centers around the world that focus on biologic joint replacement rather than artificial joint replacement.
We’re confident this will change and we hope the change happens quickly because we hate to see people end up with artificial joint replacements who didn’t really need them. You can trust that at The Stone Clinic, we’ll always remain biased towards biology, searching for new and better ways to help our own bodies work to heal us. We believe that biology trumps bionics any day of the week.