For the past five to 10 years, surgeons and practitioners across TRIA Orthopedics have explored the promising new field of orthobiologics, a treatment derived from tissue that’s injected into an affected area with the goals of restoring function and delaying or avoiding surgery. Now, TRIA has launched a new orthobiologics program that brings together individual practitioners within this research-driven healthcare organization.
When orthopedic trauma surgeon Brian Cunningham, M.D., joined TRIA, he knew of many studying the potential of orthobiologic treatments. What drove him to get involved was his frustration with predatory clinics promising patients incredible outcomes in poorly controlled clinical settings.
A friend and colleague, Brian Walters, M.D., was independently researching the effects of these treatments at the Maple Grove TRIA, and Cunningham says he took inspiration from Walters' approach.
In a new field like orthobiologics, healthcare providers are still learning the potential applications for and effects of the treatment. Currently, candidates for orthobiologic treatment include those experiencing overuse injuries, prolonged strains and sprains and plantar fasciitis. Of special interest to Cunningham are patients with early arthritis symptoms. “We think that orthobiologics can really be an exciting, very minimally invasive option to at least modify the disease process,” he says.
To explain what the process entails, he summarizes it to patients as using their bodies’ machinery to fix themselves. “The biology of a human being is way better than anything we’ve ever invented,” he says. “… And if we can harness and redirect the power of that toward a specific goal, that really is what orthobiologics is to me.”
The treatment process begins with a referral and a primary consultation to discuss symptoms and options for treatment. If it’s a good fit, the patient will have a second appointment and injection. “They either have their blood drawn or the bone marrow aspirate,” he says. Using small needles and ultrasound guidance, the treatment is injected, and patients leave the same day. “There’s no surgery, there’s no scarring, there’s no taking three months off work, there’s no [physical therapy] rehab. It’s the beauty of human biology,” Cunningham says.
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