Revolutionary Plasma Treatment Injects New Blood into Medical Tourism
Anyone who has rubbed elbows with a tennis racquet can share the pain that stems from overuse of the arm, forearm and hand muscles.
Before storming back to win the French Open tennis title last week for the second time in the last three years, Maria Sharapova went to great pains to remove the aches made worse by lifting, shaking hands, opening jars and yes swinging a racquet.
The 27-year-old Russian, ranked among the top five women's tennis players in the world, is one of on a growing list of athletes who have turned to platelet-rich plasma, a treatment that uses an individual's own blood to create an injection intended to speed healing and get back in the game.
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, and Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu a seemingly Who's Who in sports — have reached out for the revolutionary therapies.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy is one such treatment used today for a variety of sports injuries. For the past two decades, PRP has been known as a bone-healing agent applied following recoveries from spinal injury or plastic surgery.
Only recently has PRP become popular for treating ailments resulting from golf and tennis elbows and knee and joint problems caused by extending, throwing or running.
Bali Wants In
Some specialist, like orthopedic surgeon Dr. Wien Aryana, of Bali International Medical Center (BIMC) in Kuta, have used PRP to treat acute injuries including ankle sprains or chronic pains associated with plantar fasciitis on the bottom of the foot.
PRP is considered relatively safe, but insurance isn't likely to promote or support the cost of treatment. In other words, a patient seeking PRP can be pegged for $600 on up to $1,500 for injections used to stimulate repair of the tissue, calm symptoms and reduce inflammation.
Craig Beveridge, executive chairman of BIMC Siloam Hospital Group Bali, said PRP treatments are being used to target not only international athletes, but medical tourism patients from around the world who might consider a trip to the Indonesian island facility.
Beveridge, who will present a case study on the growth of medical tourism in Bali at World Medical Tourism Congress Taiwan 2014, June 26-27, at Taipei International Convention Center in Taiwan, said charges for the plasma injections at BIMC are relatively painless as well as much as 40 percent lower — compared to most countries including clinics in nearby Perth or Sydney, Australia.
Medical costs are exploding, said Stephano, who welcomed hospital administrators, doctors and clinicians, government policymakers, employers, insurance executives and travel and tourism related interests to the 7th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, Sept. 20-24, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
High co-pays or high deductibles make traveling overseas for a medical tourism procedure an attractive option for adventurous and young weekend warrior-type athletes who might lack comprehensive insurance plans.
Sometimes the willingness to pay the price can be translated in savings gained by avoiding surgery; especially for many common procedures that mounting evidence proves cannot always be counted on.
Take the study in the New England Journal of Medicine that reported one of the most common knee surgeries performed in the United States doesn't repair damage to the cushioning cartilage any better than no procedure at all.
In 2008, Tiger Woods blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. However, the ligament on the outside of the knee wasn't reacting properly to the reconstruction.
Instead of Achilles surgery and the six months of recuperation the procedure would have required, golf's most recognizable figure quietly opted for PRP therapy. The results were noticeable in 2009: Player of the Year honors and leading money winner on the Professional Golf Association tour to compliment an efficient recovery process that the most costly surgery could not buy.