Regenerative Cells Rebuild Knee Cushion

Treatment for healing painful joints begins in patient’s veins.

Glenna Reynolds

During the late ’70s and early ’80s, Glenna Reynolds and her husband were growing corn and soybeans on 2,500 acres of farmland in southern Ohio. Their livelihood was upended, however, when runaway inflation caused interest rates to soar to nearly 20 percent.

“We were just getting started in farming, and all our equipment and property was financed,” Glenna shares. “The high interest rates buried us, and we weren’t able to keep the farm. In 1983, we moved to Florida to get a new start.

“We opened a land clearing business in Venice in 1990. We clear heavy vegetation off vacant properties. We remove all the pepper trees and scrub brush so people can see the property to sell it or build a house on it. Sometimes, people have a lot beside their property and want it cleared so they can have a better view.”

Glenna’s husband handles the day-to-day physical operation of the business while Glenna, 71, runs the office. She answers the phone and is responsible for invoicing and billing.

There was a time when Glenna assisted in the field, but two years ago, nagging discomfort in her right leg forced her to focus solely on office duties.

“I’m very happy with where I am now.” – Glenna

“The area from my knee down to my shin hurt all the time,” she laments. “It wasn’t an actual pain; it just hurt. It didn’t keep me awake at night, but if I lay a certain way in bed, I could feel that discomfort go right from my back down my leg to my shin.

“Because the discomfort was in my shinbone, I didn’t think there was a problem with my knee. I thought there was something wrong with my back that was triggering the discomfort, which was a six or seven on a scale of one to 10.”

As Glenna’s condition deteriorated further, everyday tasks became more difficult.

“Getting up and down was the most painful thing,” she reports. “To get out of a chair, my husband had to hold out his hand and pull me up, or I had to push myself out with my hands. I also couldn’t do housework because it hurt so bad.

It hurt to stand and walk and climb stairs. To get to my bedroom upstairs, I had to take one step at a time and stop on each step.

“My two sons have back problems and were seeing Dr. Johnson for treatment. I was impressed with the job he was doing for them, so I went to see him. I wanted to find out if there was something with my back that was causing my leg discomfort.”

Dr. Jeffrey P. Johnson is the principal provider at Johnson Medical Center, a comprehensive medical practice in Venice. He specializes in a protocol for back and neck pain called Sedative Stretching, an expanded form of a therapy called Manipulation Under Anesthesia.

Natural Healing Factors

After examining Glenna and reviewing her imaging results, the medical team at Johnson Medical Center determined that the source of her discomfort was degenerative arthritis in her knees. For that, they recommended a newer treatment called regenerative medicine.

Glenna can now go up and down stairs without stopping on each step.

“Regenerative medicine works by harnessing natural healing factors in the body to help cushion joints and relieve pain,” Dr. Johnson describes. “The healing factors also help restore function to damaged tissues, which include degenerated cartilage in joints such as the knee.

“Glenna’s right knee was nearly bone-on-bone, but there was still some cartilage remaining that we could build upon using regenerative medicine. Her left knee was not as damaged but was heading in that direction. We recommended employing our regenerative medicine protocol on both knees.”

The aim of regenerative medicine is to place renewing substances into damaged tissue to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself. It works especially well on degenerated or injured joints.

“In Glenna’s case, our primary goal was to improve the cushioning effect of the cartilage in her knees,” Dr. Johnson contends. “Secondary benefits include the supplementary healing effects the renewing substances have on the surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. The result is decreased pain and increased function.”

Johnson Medical Center’s regenerative medicine protocol is performed in several steps.

“First, we draw a small vial of the patient’s blood,” Dr. Johnson details. “Then we spin the blood down in a centrifuge and use the platelet layers to create platelet rich plasma, or PRP. PRP contains healing and growth factors that help regenerative cells rebuild tissue in the damaged joint.

“Next, we inject the PRP into the damaged joint. Later we inject another material called Wharton jelly, which contains more of the vibrant substances that promote the body’s healing ability.”

Wharton jelly is the protective tissue that surrounds the arteries and veins of the umbilical cord. A vital component of fetus development, Wharton jelly is obtained from women who donate their babies’ umbilical cords following healthy births. Wharton jelly contains a high concentration of healing and growth factors, which help to cushion arthritic or injured joints.

Johnson Medical Center’s regenerative medicine protocol calls for three weekly PRP injections.

“The PRP gets the joint ready for the Wharton jelly, which is the fourth and final injection in the protocol,” Dr. Johnson observes. “Wharton jelly is the most effective tissue we use to promote healing.”

According to Dr. Johnson, the injections are less invasive than surgery, and patients recover much faster. In addition, there is a very low risk for complications such as bleeding and infection, which can occur with joint replacement and other surgeries.

“Regenerative medicine provides an option for patients with conditions that a year ago I would just refer for surgery,” Dr. Johnson reveals. “It’s been a terrific addition to our practice, where we also use physical therapy, chiropractic and other modalities to assist with the process of rehabilitating damaged joints. The goal is for the treatment to be a long-term restorative event, not just a short-term fix.

“Most importantly, it works. We’re seeing tremendous results with our regenerative medicine protocol. Within weeks of receiving treatment, patients are experiencing terrific relief from joint pain. In a period of months, we’re seeing an actual increase in the joint space and true healing of the joint. You don’t see that level of healing with joint replacement or other surgery.”

At Johnson Medical Center, regenerative medicine injections are administered by nurse practitioner Danielle Sabatini, RN, MSN, APRN, NP-C, under ultrasound guidance, which ensures appropriate placement at the site of the degeneration and/or injury.

“Danielle has traveled across the country to receive the best training in regenerative medicine techniques,” Dr. Johnson discloses. “She has developed expertise in using ultrasound to get the PRP and Wharton jelly exactly where they need to be for the treatment to be the most effective. It is a very precise technique, and Danielle does it well.”

Glenna is walking again after having regenerative medicine protocol on both knees.

“Greatly Improved”

“Dr. Johnson explained that the PRP injections act like worker bees,” Glenna says. “They start the regenerative process. Then the process really takes off when you put in the Wharton jelly, which is like the queen bee.”

Glenna received her first PRP injection January 6 and her Wharton jelly injection four weeks later. Since then, she has experienced significant improvement in her knee.

“After the Wharton jelly injection, I noticed a big difference in how I felt, and now I feel greatly improved,” she enthuses. “The discomfort in my shinbone is almost gone, and I can get up and down without hurting.

“I can get out of a chair without pushing myself up with my hands. I’m walking straight again, and I can climb stairs without stopping on every step. The discomfort is not totally gone, but it’s definitely decreased. It’s about a one on a scale of one to 10, so I’m very happy with where I am now, and I believe I will be 100 percent in four to six weeks.”

Glenna is also happy with the providers that delivered the regenerative medicine protocol.

“Dr. Johnson is great,” she raves. “The first time I went to Johnson Medical Center, I met with him and he explained the entire process. Then he turned me over to Danielle, who does the injections.

“Danielle is great as well. She’s knowledgeable and has been doing this kind of work for years. She answered all my questions, so I had no qualms about her treating me. I trusted her and felt very comfortable with her giving me the injections.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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    • Johnson Medical Center

      Dr. Jeffery P. Johnson has practiced in Venice, Florida since 1986. His practice is focused on treating patients with many conditions, including those that are not responding to conventional treatments such as physical therapy, chiro... Read More

    • Jeffrey P. Johnson, DC

      Jeffrey P. Johnson, DC has been in private practice since 1986. At Johnson Medical Center, Venice’s premier, fully integrated medical clinic, Dr. Johnson and his team can treat every member of the family. The practice specializes in dia... Read More

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