This is the third part of our series about recent medical advances that are being developed and tested to aid in recovery from serious personal injuries, like those often occurring in motor vehicle accidents. Allograft implants involve transplanting tissue grafts -- e.g., organs, bones, cartilage, and tendons -- from one human to another. A graft is a piece of living tissue separated from its original location and moved to a location where it is supported by another source of blood. Allografts involve donors and recipients that are in the same species classification but do not necessarily have any common genetic traits.
Type of Potential Allograft Transplants
- Vision: Corneas and repairs to the ocular surface
- Dental: Reforming the site of a tooth extraction and repairing jaw bones
- Knee: Tendons for ACL injuries and cartilage
- Heart: Valves, vessels, and arteries as part of cardiac allograft transplantation
- Skin: Repairing severely burned areas or skin affected by cancer surgery
- Spine: Cervical spinal fusion procedures and other applications when recipients need additional bone material
- Other reconstruction involving the shoulder, foot, or ankle
Source of Graft
Patients may lack tissue and materials necessary to successfully complete a medical procedure. Many people choose to be donors who may suffer an accidental death or unexpected illness. Specialists harvest critical tissue from donors that are cleaned and conditioned for usage. Donated matter may be distributed through tissue banks.
Safety of the Tissue
Infections caused by donated tissue rarely occur. The U.S. Public Health Services and the FDA have had safety procedures for years. Potential donors are subject to an examination and screening process for problems such as infectious diseases and their medical history may be reviewed. Blood testing will identify potential conditions such as HIV, hepatitis, and syphilis. The likelihood of contracting HIV from allograft transplantation is approximately one in 1.6 million.
Articular Cartilage Transplantation
A great deal of transplantation involves cartilage, which exists throughout joints in the body and acts as cushioning and prevents harmful friction. Harm to cartilage may be the result of a specific injury or the result of erosion from wear. Cartilage does not heal well and the body has a limited ability to grow or regenerate it. Those with cartilage damage may experience pain and arthritis.
Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation
The osteochondral allograft (OCA) transplantation process involves using donated tissue for knee joint repairs. At a recent American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting in Colorado Springs, Dr. William Bugbee of Scripps Clinic discussed some tremendous findings. His study results showed development to the point where many patients may return to levels of function that allow them to resume sports and other recreation. A pool of 149 patients underwent an OCA and 113 (76%) returned to general levels of activity and 90% of the transplants were still deemed as successful when examined six years later.
What is the Rehabilitation Process Following an OCA?
Immediately following surgery, the emphasis is on managing pain, reducing swelling, and regaining overall control. For the initial four to six weeks, patients typically must refrain from bearing weight and attempting to fully flex the knee. Within a month, many may begin stationary cycling. Depending on various factors, they may resume weight-bearing activity in as little as eight weeks. Returning to full recreational activity is possible within three months.
OCA Insurance Coverage & Costs
Many transplants are still predominately experimental and generally not covered by most insurance plans. Osteochondral autograft transplantation is a more evolved treatment that many insurance providers will reimburse for when medically necessary. Policy provisions from United Healthcare and Blue Cross & Blue Shield have the following general requirements for OCA approval:
- Patient is an adult that has reached skeletal maturity.
- Patient is not a suitable candidate for a total knee replacement.
- The individual is experiencing debilitating symptoms and limitations.
- Conventional methods of medical treatment were unsuccessful.
- Patient has a willingness to be compliant with necessary post-surgical rehabilitation.
In these types of procedures, the cost considerations may include the cost of obtaining the allograft, costs of anesthesia, any potential for an overnight hospital stay, and the expenses of physical therapy and rehabilitation.
This blog concludes our look into advanced treatments that could potentially better help you recover from personal injuries. It's always best to consult with a doctor about these kinds of treatments and always best to consult with an attorney if you use these treatments so you are informed about how they may impact compensation if you had or are considering filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit.