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Innovative Treatment Helps Heal Chronic Injuries Using Patients’ Own Blood

PHOTO: Dr. Mark Kandutsch discusses platelet-rich plasma therapy, an innovative treatment for musculoskeletal injuries, with patient Robin Clarke, a personal trainer and marathon runner who received the treatment following a meniscus tear in 2016. Clarke, who went on to run a 5K just days after the treatment, has seen long-lasting results from platelet-rich plasma therapy.

 

BAR HARBOR—While professional athletes have long used platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP, to treat a variety of chronic musculoskeletal injuries, the treatment has been slower to catch on in the mainstream. This hasn’t stopped Dr. Mark Kandutsch from offering the innovative regenerative injection therapy at Cadillac Family Practice in Bar Harbor for the last 12 years.

“It’s been really a particularly rewarding area of interest for me, I’ve had a long history of being interested in musculoskeletal medicine, and platelet-rich plasma is really the most exciting thing that I’ve come across anytime recently in my practice.” Thanks to advances in technology, Dr. Kandutsch has recently introduced a new fee structure that makes the treatment a little more affordable as well.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy is a regenerative injection therapy technique that uses patients’ own platelets to heal torn joints and ligaments. The process involves placing a small amount of the patient’s blood in a centrifuge that rotates at high speed, separating red blood cells from the platelets that release proteins and other particles involved in the body’s self-healing process. A teaspoon or two of the remaining substance is then injected into the damaged area.

Studies reveal that PRP helps regenerate ligament and tendon fibers, which can accelerate the healing process. The high concentration of platelets—from 3 to 10 times that of normal blood—often prompt the growth of new soft-tissue or bone cells. PRP can be used to treat joint pain, acute and chronic muscle strain, ligament sprains, tendonopathy, tendonosis, plantar fasciitis, some meniscal and labral injuries and sacroiliac pain. The treatment takes about an hour, with a considerably shorter recovery time than surgery.

“The effectiveness is quite well established for a lot of diagnoses,” says Dr. Kandutsch. It can be used to basically rev up or restart the body’s ability to heal chronic musculoskeletal injuries that might otherwise not heal at all, and for which the only other treatment options are probably surgical.”

Part of the reason for that PRP has been slower to catch on despite its obvious benefits is that it is not typically covered by most health insurance plans, says Dr. Kandutsch. A longtime proponent of the therapy, he has worked to increase access and decrease the cost of the procedure in his practice. Thanks to recent advances in the field, Dr. Kandutsch is now able to offer the treatment for as little as $400 to $600 per session. Depending on the area and condition, one session may be enough, while some injuries may require two or three.

When local marathon runner and fitness instructor Robin Clarke found out that she had a torn meniscus in her right knee in 2016, she was concerned that knee surgery would prevent her from running competitively. That’s when she heard about platelet-rich plasma therapy. The treatment appealed to her because it was an alternative to surgery that had a far shorter recovery time.

“That was the amazing part for me. One of the big reasons why I chose it was because I had my second Boston Marathon coming up that April. The big draw for me was that I could heal as I continued to have my active life and still not take time out from work or doing the things I like to do,” says Clarke. Because of PRP, Clarke was able to avoid surgery and regain function in her knee with just one injection—and run a 5K just days after her procedure. Returning to normal activity this quickly is not typical, cautions Dr. Kandutsch, but neither is Clarke, who went on to win the 5K.

While PRP is a natural fit for athletes, the treatment is not just for sports injuries, says Dr. Kandutsch, it can benefit anyone looking to reduce pain and improve function following chronic muscle, joint, ligament and tendon injuries. “It’s very broadly applicable,” he says. “We’ve been doing this for 12 years now, and we’ve found that for most people, the results have been durable over time.”

For information on PRP, visit mdihospital.org or contact Dr. Kandutsch at Cadillac Family Practice in Bar Harbor at 288-5119.

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