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Treatment for joint pain requires blood

WABC-TV News—February 27, 2009

There is a fairly new procedure to treat chronic tendon injuries called tendonopathy.

In the elbow, for example, it can be very painful. And it can interfere with daily activities. Therefore, some people are turning to a treatment which uses their own blood to heal the injury.

For golf lovers, there's nothing better than a day on the links.

Or on the asphalt, if you're if you're a tennis lover.

But sports can leave their mark. Especially after decades of the game.

It happened to Karyn Calcano, in the form of an elbow injury.

Karyn had developed tendinosis. The inflammation is gone, but scarring and pain are left.

Hillary Leff has a similar elbow problem from tennis.

On this day, she's giving what the doctor will use to treat her. Her own blood.

Dr. Brian Halpern of Hospital for Special Surgery explained why the process works. Dr. Halpern said, "Nobody has a reaction to it. It is their own system. You use your own stuff to heal yourself."

What the blood has naturally are cells called "growth factors," which promote healing.

That blood is put into a centrifuge to separate out the platelets, or clotting cells.

It is these platelets that are injected back into the injured area. These will release a concentration of growth factors. The chemicals that naturally heal.

There are only a couple of very small studies of the procedure, but Dr. Halpern says some 80 to 90 percent of patients heal partially or completely. He's injected about 60 patients suffering tendonopathy problems in the foot and ankle, knee and shoulder.

Some patients may require more than one treatment for good healing. And then there's the question of insurance. Dr. Halpern told Eyewitness News that as best as he knows, insurance companies are familiar with the treatment and therefore are not paying for it. However, Karyn told Eyewitness News her insurance company did partially cover it.

This story originally appeared at 7online.


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