Sixteenth-century philosopher Francis Bacon is credited with coining the infamous phrase, “the remedy is worse than the disease.” Whether Bacon was really the first one to say it may be a matter of debate, but the reality behind what has become a common American idiom is not. There are times when the procedure a doctor uses to fix a given problem ends in results that are worse than the problem itself. Thus, the debate between stem cell therapy and surgery.
According to Apex Biologix, a Utah company that trains doctors to provide PRP and stem cell therapies, one of the main objectives of stem cell procedures in orthopedic applications is to avoid surgery. Apex Biologix and the doctors they train agree that surgeries carry with them some inherent risks that should be avoided whenever possible. Stem cell therapy is often a viable option.
What Stem Cell Therapy Does
Research has shown that stem cells can be coaxed to do many different things. Orthopedic stem cell injections encourage the body to grow new tissue. In an osteoarthritis scenario, the goal is to regrow the lost joint tissue that is at the root of the arthritic condition. In a sports injury involving damage to the ligaments or tendons, the goal is to replace the damaged tissue naturally.
The important thing to remember is that stem cells are tissue-specific. Right now, doctors cannot extract stem cells from just anywhere in the body and use them to create any kind of tissue they want. They focus on adult autologous stem cells of the mesenchymal variety that can be used to stimulate repairs of soft tissue like muscle, tendons, and ligaments.
Stem cell therapy has been used for decades to treat leukemia patients. It has also been used along with PRP therapy to improve wound healing following surgery. The next logical step, and one more and more doctors are taking these days, is to apply already proven principles to orthopedic injuries that could be helped through stem cell injections.
Avoiding Surgical Damage
The explanation of what stem cell therapy does leads us to the main point: avoiding additional damage caused by surgery. Make no mistake about it; collateral damage is part and parcel with surgical procedures. Take a simple back surgery performed to relieve a bulging disc.
In order to get to that disc, the surgeon must cut through muscle tissue and then use a retractor to keep the tissue separated so he or she can work on the disc. Both the cutting and retraction cause damage. If the pressure created by the retractor is high enough, significant damage can lead to lasting complications.
The very nature of surgery makes it highly invasive and very likely to cause at least temporary damage. The risk is in the probability of some of that temporary damage becoming permanent. There are also complications (like infection and rejection) to think about.
Apex Biologix explains that the doctors they train are not against surgical procedures in principle. Neither is the company itself. They all understand that surgery still has a significant role in addressing certain kinds of orthopedic injuries. But there are alternative treatments that should be considered before assuming surgery is the only way to go.
If doctors and the patients can avoid unnecessary damage to injured tissues by avoiding surgery, what would be a reasonable motivation for not doing so? At the end of the day, there is none. Modern medicine should be using surgery as a last resort. Where things like stem cell therapy can be used instead, they should be.