Dr. Nathan Wei, an interventional rheumatologist based in Frederick, Maryland, is pioneering some groundbreaking new treatments for arthritis, and he believes none of this would be possible without the use of whole body donations to learn and refine his skills.
Dr. Wei points out, “Generally, rheumatologists don’t do arthroscopy.” Typical arthritis treatment involves the use of pills, injections, and exercises. However, under the tutelage of Dr. Lanny Johnson, an orthopedic surgeon in East Lansing, Michigan, Dr. Wei acquired the knowledge to perform arthroscopic procedures.
Dr. Wei then took his newfound skills back to the cadaver lab at the University of Maryland. “The value of having cadavers just can’t be underestimated when you are learning new procedures”, he says.
Dr. Wei practiced these techniques on the cadavers. He studied videos of Dr. Johnson’s surgeries and replicated his methods on the donor bodies. As a result, he was able hone his skills, eventually becoming the only rheumatologist member of the Arthroscopy Association of North America.
Dr. Wei also credits his specific expertise with ultrasound guided procedures to his time in the cadaver lab. He believes this was instrumental in learning how to precisely define the anatomy which is necessary to carry out these types of procedures.Now by putting these skills into practice at the Arthritis Treatment Center, one of the top 10 private arthritis treatment centers in the U.S., Dr. Wei is able to use cutting edge therapies to help his patients fight the battle against osteoarthritis.
One of his most promising treatments to help regenerate cartilage in joints is called the Guided Missile procedure. Using ultrasound guidance, stem cells from bone marrow are harvested from the patient’s posterior iliac crest with pinpoint accuracy.
This is combined into a “cocktail” with the patient’s own platelet rich plasma and fat tissue. Then, arthroscopy is performed on the joint to inject the cells into the damaged area. Results have shown there to be new cartilage growth and a reduction in pain. He has seen an 80% success rate for knees, which has allowed patients to avoid knee replacement.
By Erin Azuse, RN BSN