Procedure used to treat chronic pain, avoid taking opioids

SAN ANTONIO – In the effort to decrease the use of opioids for pain, doctors are being encouraged to find other ways to decrease discomfort. Pain clinics in San Antonio have been trying a new approach by using platelet rich plasma.

The results over the last year in some patients are remarkable, reducing the amount of medication taken, and some have even avoided surgery.

Dorothy Cornwell, 74, uses cutting-edge treatment to manage her pain. In the process, she will avoid knee replacement and the pain pills she would need afterward.

“Let's face it, it's not only medicine. Artificial knees are no fun. It takes a long time to recover from them,” Cornwell said.

Platelet rich plasma is a less-invasive way to approach knee and other pain. Cornwell said she wants results with natural healing.

“I want the procedure so that I can stay more active.  I've been an active person all my life, and recently, I've had to slow down and I don't like it,” Cornwell said.

Dr. Stephen Dinger, with Advanced Pain Management, said the procedure is useful for “patients with arthritis, people who have bursitis, tendonitis, overuse injuries, sports injuries, people with chronic neck pain, back pain.”

In Cornwell’s case, because of her age, her cells are boosted with amniotic fluid. The procedure has been in use in the U.S. for several years. Pain and spinal doctors like Dinger hope that the procedure will be covered by insurance soon.

"I think (platelet rich plasma) is really going to change how we treat patients,” Dinger said. “We are going to be able to minimize other medications and use the body's own healing response to heal your damaged tissue, damaged cells."

The procedure lasts a few minutes, but it takes a number of weeks for the full effect.

While the American College of Physicians recommends treating chronic pain with non-drug treatments such as platelet rich plasma, it is expensive without insurance. The cost is $500-$3,000 per injection, depending on in what part of the country the procedure is done. 

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