At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we pride ourselves on offering some of the most advanced and effective treatment options available. (Our patients are worth it!)
Since a lot of our treatment procedures are unfamiliar to our patients, we naturally get a lot of questions about them. One of the advanced therapies that generates the highest volume of questions is perinatal tissue injections.
This promising regenerative therapy can provide major benefits to our patients, but many are understandably concerned—at least at first!—about questions on effectiveness, safety, and even ethics.
To help put you at ease, we decided to highlight some of those common questions and answer them as simply (but thoroughly) as we can. That said, don’t be afraid to ask any other questions at your appointment!
What Are Perinatal Tissue Injections?
The term “perinatal” literally means “around birth,” and the word is usually used to refer to the time period just before and after birth—usually from a few weeks before to a few weeks after.
Perinatal tissue, however, refers to the organs and tissues that surround and nourish a child in the womb—such as the amniotic sac and tissue, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord, and placenta.
Perinatal tissue injections, as you might imagine, are made from this tissue—after it’s been carefully screened, processed, and preserved.
How Do Perinatal Tissue Injections Work?
Because perinatal tissue is meant to nourish a growing fetus, it’s packed with growth factors, proteins, and other nutrients that are absolutely critical for the tissue growth and regeneration process.
A single injection into an area that is experiencing pain can dramatically accelerate the healing process by giving your cells exactly what they need to conduct repairs, and even “recruit” neighboring stem cells to join the cause.
How Are Perinatal Injections Different from Cortisone Injections?
An injection of cortisone is meant to alleviate painful symptoms quickly, for a relatively long period of time. But it doesn’t really help your body heal itself—at least not directly. It is merely a temporary “mask” for the pain, which can buy you time to address the root causes of the injury via other means.
Cortisone injections also come with a risk of tissue damage, particularly if you get too many of them in too short a timeframe.
Perinatal tissue injections, by contrast, help with both pain and causes of pain. The injections will actually help power your body’s repair mechanisms so that you don’t just feel better—you get better, too.
Having said that, perinatal tissue injections are not a magic bullet for permanent pain relief, especially if there are mechanical underlying factors (such as flat feet or other structural foot problems). In these cases, we may recommend other treatments (such as 3D-printed custom orthotics) to help you prevent the injury from returning.
How Are Perinatal Injections Different from Platelet-Rich Plasma?
Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, is another type of regenerative injection therapy that we offer at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists.
There are a lot of surface similarities between the treatments. Both are injectable treatments packed with growth factors and other proteins that help your body accelerate repairs. Both are 100% natural and safe, made from materials derived from biological tissue.
In the case of PRP, that tissue is your own. A sample of your blood is drawn, spun in a centrifuge, and then recombined (after removing the red blood cells) to create a solution highly concentrated in platelets—which contain the growth factors and other essential tissue repair nutrients.
Both treatments can be highly effective in the right circumstances, but they aren’t exactly interchangeable, either. Whether we recommend one or the other will depend on the specific particulars of your situation.
Are Perinatal Injections a “Stem Cell” Treatment?
Injections made from perinatal or amniotic tissue are sometimes advertised as a “stem cell” therapy, but that’s misleading at best.
Although perinatal tissue does naturally contain stem cells, by the time the tissue makes its way to the injectable form, there are no living stem cells remaining.
However, the growth factors and other key proteins that remain in the injectable material help “recruit” the stem cells you already have in your own body, directing them to the site of injury to repair the damage.
So it would be fair to say that stem cells are involved, but they are your own stem cells. You are not being injected with them.
Are Perinatal Injections Ethical? What Happens to the Baby?
This is probably the most common question we get, and the good news is that you don’t have to worry!
Perinatal tissue is not fetal tissue. Instead, the tissue is gathered only after a healthy delivery by planned C-section. Mothers give their consent in advance to donate the tissue, and neither the mother nor the baby are harmed (or even affected) in any way.
Normally, perinatal tissue would simply be discarded as “medical waste,” but this way it can be reused to provide healing to others!
Is There a Risk of Rejection?
Unlike other types of organ or tissue transplants from other donors, there is virtually no risk of rejection with perinatal tissue injections.
This is a special property of perinatal tissue. Since baby’s body and mom’s body aren’t necessarily biologically compatible, the perinatal tissue is naturally “immunoprivileged,” acting as a defensive barrier to prevent mom’s immune system from mistakenly attacking the growing fetus.
The unintended but very welcome benefit of this state of affairs is that your body won’t attack perinatal tissue either after an injection. You don’t have to be pregnant or even female for it to work.
Are There Any Other Risks to Perinatal Injections?
Overall, the risks are very low. This is one of the safest treatments we offer.
Mild side effects might include a bit of tenderness or redness at the injection site, lasting at most a couple of days after the procedure. No major side effects have been reported. Again, this is largely due to the immunoprivileged nature of perinatal tissue.
Remember as well that this tissue is only taken from scheduled C-sections, so doctors have a lot of time in advance to make sure the donor tissue is healthy. That’s followed by rigorous secondary screening, sterilization, and cryopreservation. By the time the tissue is ready to be used as an injectable, the risk of any contamination is remote.
Furthermore, because perinatal tissue injections do not require any kind of accompanying injection of medications (including anesthesia), there’s really nothing else that could cause any kind of adverse reaction. All of the “ingredients” being injected are natural components that your body already uses anyway.
I Have a Question That Isn’t Answered Here
No problem! We are happy to answer any questions you may have about any of the advanced treatments we offer, either over the phone (if possible) or at your next appointment. We will always make as much time as necessary to ensure you feel 100% comfortable with any procedure we recommend before we go forward.
Whether we ultimately recommend perinatal tissue injections or some other type (or combination) or therapies for your foot and ankle pain, you can trust the team at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists to act in your best interest, offering you a personalized treatment plan that makes use of whatever therapies we feel will give you the greatest benefit with the minimum amount of risk or disruption to your daily life.
To request an appointment with our team, give us a call at (512) 328-8900, or complete our online contact form. Some appointments can also be scheduled directly online by filling out the contact form below.