Autologous tenocyte implantation (ATI) non-surgical care for tendinopathy uses your own healthy tendon cells to replenish those lost in a damaged tendon, regenerate its structure and prevent recurrent symptoms.

This is a new “tissue engineering” technique for patients who have not responded to other forms of treatment. Trials are still in progress, but evidence to date suggests a significant response in this group. It should be considered as an alternative to surgery.

Preparation

If possible, wear clothing that allows easy access to the area that is being imaged.

Procedure

The diagnosis will need to be confirmed with ultrasound or MRI before treatment.

Your doctor may discuss the option of ATI with us to determine your suitability, and if you wish, an appointment will be made for you to see one of our radiologists trained in tenocyte implantation.

The procedure occurs in two stages. First, a biopsy is performed to harvest a small piece of healthy tendon (typically the tendon below your kneecap) which is sent to the Orthocell©, a biotechnology company at Macquarie University in Perth, to isolate the tendon cells. Then it takes 4-6 weeks to grow enough cells for us to implant back into the damaged tendon as an injection with ultrasound guidance.

Post-Procedure Care

Do not do any vigorous activity for two days. After that, you can return to normal daily activities and light duties. Avoid those movements that know aggravate your problem. As with any musculoskeletal treatment, a rehabilitation program is essential, guided by your surgeon, sports doctor or physiotherapist. The recommendation is for:

  • Weeks 1-2: Stretching exercises
  • Weeks 4-6: Graduated strengthening exercises

Improvement occurs steadily from three weeks to six months as the aim is to regenerate the tendon, not just treat the symptom.

Risks / Side effects

Because we are re-injecting your own tendon cells, there is no risk of an allergic reaction and no adverse effect on the tendon structure. Any injection carries a small risk of introducing infection, about 1 in 30,000 and we take precautions to minimise this. If you experience increased swelling or redness, please call your doctor.

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