Yet Another Reason to Avoid Joint Surgeries

2 September 2016
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Category: Blog
2 September 2016, Comments: Comments Off on Yet Another Reason to Avoid Joint Surgeries

Stem cell treatment is an alternative to joint surgeries. In the past we have discussed the many reasons to avoid joint surgery. These reasons include: increased costs, unnecessary risks, long recovery periods, and suboptimal outcomes.

Over the past several years, and especially the last 2 years, the evidence supporting the widespread use of joint surgeries has been questioned. This article from one the most prestigious medical journals found little evidence to support the practice of arthroscopic surgeries for knee osteoarthritis. And this editorial from the same medical journal called the evidence supporting many orthopedic surgeries “scandalously poor”.  This study from 2014 suggested that as many as one third of all knee replacement surgeries performed in the USA were inappropriate.

The increased risks of joint surgeries, particularly joint replacement surgeries, are well documented. Those risks include possible infections, increased rates of blood clots, stroke and heart events. Now, you can also add an increased risk of chronic opioid use.

A new study from Stanford University and published in the journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) found that opioid –naïve patients who underwent common surgical procedures, including knee and hip replacements, had an increased risk of becoming chronic opioid users. This happened even if they did not receive opioids for post-operative pain.  The study analyzed insurance claims of more than 640,000 opioid naïve surgical patients and 18 million nonsurgical patients between 2001 and 2013. A significant number of patients that were not using opioids prior to their surgeries were found to be using them one year after the surgeries. Risk factors included: being male, elderly, history of depression, and history of alcohol or drug abuse. Patients who had knee surgeries had the highest risk. They were five times more likely than non-surgical patients to end up with chronic use of opioid medications.

Since the mid-1990’s the use of opioid medications to treat non-cancer pain has exploded. This increased use of opioids has resulted in an alarming increase in side effects and complications. The number of deaths associated with overdose of opioids has tripled in the last 20 years. This study showed that elective surgeries, in particular knee replacement surgeries, are associated with an increased risk of chronic use of opioids.

You would think that a procedure that has significant risks, significant down time, and is very costly would have a good track record of being effective in eliminating joint pain. However, that is not the case. Several studies have shown that pain continues to be a major problem after knee replacement surgeries. Studies like this one, and this one, and this one have shown a prevalence of 40-55% of pain of at least moderate intensity (4-5 in a 0-10 point pain scale) following knee replacement surgeries.

Joint surgeries are elective surgeries that are performed at a much higher rate in the USA than in any other country.  These are the most common elective surgeries performed in the USA. Multiple studies have shown that many of these surgeries are no better than non-surgical treatments, and in many cases unnecessary. Therefore, decreasing the number of these surgeries could result in a significant reduction in the number of prescription of opioids for pain.

If you suffer from joint pain that is limiting your activity, surgery is not your only option (and in most cases not your best option). You now have the option of treating this pain with regenerative medicine instead of surgery. Regenerative medicine treatments, like injections with stem cells, could help you avoid not only the risks of surgical complications, but also avoid the possibility of having to depend on chronic use of opioid medications to manage your pain.



To learn more about non-surgical alternatives to joint surgeries go to: