Local doctor cuts down on arthritis pain with revolutionary surgery

NAPLES, Fla. – An orthopedic doctor is revolutionizing arthritis treatment.

Over the last year, Dr. Leon Mead has performed 100 stem cell therapies on various patients. The treatment uses a person’s stem cells to rebuild cartilage and hopefully decrease pain in the joints.

“We’re going to try and regenerate his joint surface by doing arthroscopic, marrow stimulation procedure along with stem cell treatment,” Dr. Mead explained. “We’re basically going to plan the seed.”

Dr. Mead allowed us into the operating room to see how the surgery worked. He first takes bone marrow, typically from someone’s pelvic bone. That is then put into a centrifuge, where the stem cells are separated out. While the centrifuge is working, Dr. Mead is also working. In the surgery we watched his patient could not have a knee replacement, so he was ‘planting’ the stem cells on the patient’s knee. Before Dr. Mead can put the stem cells in, he first had to clean all the bad cartilage out of the knee. While he is cleaning the knee, the stem cells are mixed with amnion.

“It [amnion] comes from human placenta tissue. It’s obtained from live, healthy births in the Dallas area. There’s no ethical concerns. This material has been harvested for over ten years, so it’s been well studied and FDA approved. This takes aging stem cells and helps turbo charge them to become more active because we’re asking them to do the impossible. We’re asking them to grow back a joint surface that is something we’ve never been able to do before.”

Of the 100 patients Dr. Mead has treated, only four have reported ongoing pain. He says this is good for someone who is not an ideal candidate for a knee replacement, rotator cuff issues or someone who has a lot of pain from arthritis. In fact, he even did the treatment on a 17-year-old with a badly torn meniscus.

“I believe when we do these procedures we turn this arthritis off for a period of time, it’s like a timer switch. At some point, I think that timer switch is going to turn back on and we don’t know when that’s going to happen or even if it does,” Dr. Mead said.

Troup Davis had the stem cell therapy surgery last year and says it has made a huge difference in his life.

“[I] first started having knee problems back around 1989 or something like that. First tore my ACL back at that time in Texas. At that time they just took it out and they didn’t replace it. I continued playing soccer, tried to do some sports activities, but it just wasn’t working. Couple years later they went in and rebuilt the ACL and ended up breaking that again. So they ended up having to do like four surgeries on the left one, and it’s been about ten years on the left one, and then 1999 I broke the right one.”

Davis had been through multiple surgeries and was fed up. He knew he would never play sports again but just wanted to be able to keep up with his 5-year-old daughter.

“Got to where, chasing her around the parks and things like that, it just was getting so bad,” Davis said.

Now, Davis rides his bike with his daughter and says the pain, when it does pop-up, is minimal.

“I think it’s remarkable. I feel blessed that, that I was actually to do it. I feel blessed that it worked.”

The surgery is experimental, so it is not currently covered by insurance. Dr. Mead said it typically will run a person about $5,000 to $7,000 out-of-pocket. Dr. Mead also stressed the surgery is not for everyone, but if you have more questions, you can reach out to Dr. Mead at 239-262-1119.

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