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What are Orthobiologic Treatments for an Ankle Injury?

Orthobiologics are natural substances such as cells, blood components, and growth factors typically used for the healing of damaged tissues such as bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Orthobiologics may be obtained from your own body or a donor and are usually administered as injections. They can be used in the treatment of some types of ankle pain and injuries.

How do Orthobiologics work?

Your body can heal most injuries by itself. However, your body's healing mechanism could struggle to keep up with the injuries caused by serious damage or aging. Orthobiologics, when injected into the site of injury, can support and enhance your body's natural healing process by releasing chemicals that stimulate growth and draw additional cells for regeneration of tissue ensuring quick and effective recovery.

Anatomy of the Ankle

The ankle joint connects the leg to the foot and comprises three bones: the tibia, fibula, and talus. The tibia (shinbone) and fibula (calf bone) are the bones of the lower leg that articulate with the talus (ankle bone), enabling up-and-down movement of the foot. The joint surfaces of all these bones are lined by a thin, tough, flexible, and slippery surface called the articular cartilage, which acts as a shock absorber to cushion and reduce friction between the bones. The cartilage is lubricated by synovial fluid, which further enables smooth movement of the bones. Ligaments are tough, rope-like bands that connect bones to other bones, holding them in place to provide joint stability.

Indications for Orthobiologic Treatments of the Ankle

You may be a candidate for orthobiologics if you:

  • Have suffered an ankle injury that has not healed properly even after a long time.
  • Have failed traditional or conventional treatments and you would rather not consider surgery.

Orthobiologic Treatments for the Ankle

PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma)

PRP is derived from your blood which is drawn from your arm and spun at high speeds in a centrifuge machine to separate out the platelets and plasma components. When the PRP is injected into a site of injury, the tissue is prompted to release growth factors and draw in additional cells to aid in the healing process.

Cell Therapy

These are a concentration of specialized cells derived from the bone marrow or abdominal fat of the body. They can differentiate into other cell types to regenerate tissue.

Of the various orthobiologics, cell therapy has the greatest potential for promoting healing. This therapy is increasingly being used in the treatment of orthopedic injuries and conditions and may be considered an alternative to surgery.

Procedure for Orthobiologic Treatments of the Ankle

The procedure usually takes about half an hour depending on several factors. It is performed under local anesthesia. A highly sophisticated ultrasound instrument with enhanced needle visualization is used for the precise delivery of these cells.

During the procedure:

  • The area from where the cells are to be harvested is cleaned and numbed.
  • Using a special needle and syringe, fluid containing the cells is drawn from the source.
  • The fluid obtained is then spun in a centrifuge machine for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • This process helps obtain a concentrated layer of the specialized cells to be used.
  • The injured ankle is thoroughly cleaned and numbed.
  • The specialized cells are then injected into the damaged tissue under image guidance.

Post-Procedure Care

Post-procedure care will include the following instructions:

  • You will most likely be able to return to work the next day following your procedure.
  • You will need to take it easy and avoid any load-bearing activities for at least two weeks following your procedure.
  • You will need to refrain from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for a while as this can affect the healing process of your body.
  • You may apply ice to the injection site for comfort.
  • Rest, elevation and medicines are recommended to relieve pain and swelling.
  • A follow-up appointment will be scheduled to monitor your overall progress.

Risk and Complications

Orthobiologic treatment for an ankle injury is a relatively safe procedure; however, as with any procedure, there may be some complications, such as:

  • Infection
  • Soreness at the injection site
  • Nerve damage
  • Immune reaction