INNOVATION IN ORTHOPEDICS: Orthopedic centers across the state are changing the ways they care for patients.

Author:Chase, Lindsey
 
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With the number of people seeking treatment for orthopedic issues rising, experts across North Carolina are using cutting-edge technology to change the health industry.

This includes healing musculoskeletal trauma through regenerative medicine, using robot-assisted surgery to reduce recovery time, working on clinical trials developing preventative products and using artificial intelligence to determine risk factors.

Professionals are noticing the increase in patients they see each year. Thomas Bates, director of the Joint and Spine Center at Carteret Health Care, has been with the hospital for 14 years and says this is due to the aging baby-boomer generation, but younger patients are increasing, too.

"We used to think hip and knee replacement was for older patients --patients in their 60s, 70s and 80s--but we are seeing a lot younger patient population that need surgery for hip and knee replacement," Bates says.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 31 % of nonfatal occupational injuries in 2015 were due to conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis, fibromyalgia, bone fractures and others, resulting in days off, decreased productivity and increased health costs. To solve this, new treatment techniques are necessary.

REGENERATIVE MEDICINE

Brian Waterman, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Health, is certain the next frontier of orthopedic care is regenerative medicine, or using engineered tissue to regrow bone, cartilage and ligaments.

Stem cell regenerative treatment has the potential to work well in cases of musculoskeletal trauma, where bone, tendon and ligaments have been worn down. Waterman has seen results in using regenerative medicine to treat tennis elbow, patellar tendinitis or "jumper's knee," and cartilage injuries such as arthritis.

These advancements are promising, but Waterman says there's work to be done.

"While the enthusiasm and marketing surrounding this technology is quite prevalent, we are working through how best to use this technology in an evidence-based manner with modest health care costs," Waterman says.

ROBOT-ASSISTED SURGERY

At the Joint and Spine Center at Carteret Health Care, orthopedic surgeons are relying more on robotic-assisted surgery. The center was recently recognized as one of the best hospitals nationwide for orthopedics by the Women's Choice Award, a marketing research company.

Though the hospital has been using robotic-assisted surgery for about eight years, the...

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