Woman walks pain-free after new procedure lets her body heal itself

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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) An Allouez woman is up and walking, pain free, after undergoing a procedure still relatively new to the greater Green Bay area.

Dr. Ryan Woods, BayCare Clinic regenerative medicine physician, explains how a centrifuge is during a regenerative medicine procedure.

Doctors used regenerative medicine to take away the pain of her arthritic knee.

Regenerative medicine is an outpatient procedure, no surgery required, that allows a person's body to begin healing itself using its own stem cells and blood.

"I really wonder if we know what our body can really do, but this is a start," says Ruth Mettner.

Mettner has the smile, spunk and attitude most doctors probably wish all their patients have.

Why wouldn't she be so happy after a two-hour procedure in a doctor's office got her back on both feet again?

"I'm doing fine. God bless these little things! I hope they keep it up," says a laughing Mettner.

Last fall, her left knee was causing her extreme pain.

"I got up one morning at about two in the morning, and I fell flat on my face on the floor. My knee was just gone," she recalls. "Our family is very full of arthritis, and so that's the problem. It's hereditary, so it was just my turn."

Mettner assumed she'd have to have a knee replacement, like her siblings, until her physical therapist told her about a relatively new procedure being offered at BayCare Clinic in Green Bay.

Dr. Ryan Woods, a BayCare Clinic regenerative medicine and sports medicine physician, moved to the Green Bay area a little more than a year ago to offer patients with joint pain another option -- regenerative medicine.

"Regenerative medicine is a practice of medicine where we attempt to use the body's natural materials and mechanisms to initiate repair and improve pain and function," explains Dr. Woods.

In Mettner's case, that meant removing platelets and bone marrow from her pelvis.

Using an ultrasound to see precisely where it's going, the cells are then inserted back into her knee.

"There's a little pain, but it's nothing," says Mettner.

Dr. Woods describes the pain of the two-hour outpatient procedure like a bee sting.

Mettner was walking without a limp four days after seeing Dr. Woods.

"An arthritic joint is a very angry, catabolic environment where there's continued breakdown of the cartilage inside the joint," explains Dr. Woods. "These treatments can go in and modulate that to make the environment a little happier, more anabolic, kind of protective. I explain it to folks as kind of a seed and fertilizer analogy, where the cells are the seeds and the platelets act as a fertilizer."

It's still new enough most insurance doesn't cover it, and Dr. Woods says the medical community doesn't know yet if it actually prevents more arthritis, but it can be used on all kinds of joints for people of all ages, with benefits for many patients.

"We don't have to worry about dosing limits. It's your own self. It's safe," he explains.

Dr. Woods says high school and collegiate athletes can benefit, and so can others of varying ages, who have chronic injuries or pain.

It doesn't replace surgery, but it does give people like Mettner more options.

"I think it's a miracle, personally," says Mettner. "Oh! Worth it? Oh! I can't tell you. I would have paid more if I'd known what it was going to be like!"

Read the original version of this article at www.wbay.com.