As Baby Boomers age, the number of joint replacements is going up. But even those from Generation X are now wearing out their joints, and replacements don t last forever.
Paul Lyon of Gig Harbor went to Colorado looking for a better solution.
Lyon says even climbing the stairs was difficult for him, but he didn t want to get a knee replacement. So instead of surgery last September, he headed to a clinic near Denver that specializes in stem cell repair.
The Regenexx procedure allows you to take your cells and try to heal your body. Dr. Christopher Centeno pioneered this less-invasive procedure eight years ago.
Stem cells are harvested from a patient s hip.
We take those cells, we concentrate them in much, much higher numbers, and then, we place them very precisely in the spot in need of repair, Centeno said.
The clinic also treats athletes, some as young as 16, with orthopedic injuries. It fits patients like Paul, in their 40s to 80s with joint damage, who still want to push the limits.
Lyon plans to get his second knee treated, but not until after ski season. He paid $7,000 for his procedure, which isn t covered by insurance. But he says his money was well spent.
I've had friends who've had replacements, with great success, extremely painful, but they're still limited on what they can do so, he said. I'm hoping to be able to ski for a long time with the stem cells. Maybe I'll have to cut back on the level of skiing I'm doing, but I think I'll be OK.
When Lyon skies, he hikes five hours up Crystal Mountain, then skies down. He says he couldn t have done this a year ago.
The procedure doesn t come without controversy. It s still considered experimental and doesn t work for every patient.