In this country, the use of stem cells to treat joint pain was first performed in 2005 by Regenexx physicians in Colorado. Up until that time, it had been thought that adults did not have stem cells. We now know that the adult human has stem cells in every tissue in the body. They are associated with blood vessels and found in large concentrations in bone marrow and fat tissue.
Stem cells are the ‘repairmen’ of the body. When the body is injured and blood vessels are damaged, stem cells migrate from the damaged vessels to the area of injury and begin secreting repair hormones that direct cells near and far to effect removal of dead tissue, develop new blood supply, and regenerate damaged tissues.
The idea behind using stem cells to treat orthopedic conditions where cartilage, bone, ligaments, and tendons, are damaged is based on the fact that all of these tissues have poor blood supply. Because stem cells are found in association with blood vessels, tissues that have limited blood supply also have a very low concentration of local stem cells. The foundational idea of interventional orthopedics is to bring large concentrations of stem cells to these tissues to increase their ability to heal and repair.
We use only stem cells that we obtain from our patients. It is true that a patient’s stem cell population declines with age. However, outcome data does not show any decrease in effectiveness when using the stem cells of older patients. The ability to obtain stem cells in great quantity from a patient, concentrate them in a laboratory, and then precisely re-inject them into areas of damage requires training that your family physician, your local chiropractor, and most orthopedic surgeons do not have. Despite this, there are many practitioners who advertise the use of ‘stem cells’ from fetal cord blood or chorionic/amniotic tissues that are ‘superior’ to your own stem cells. These claims are not true. They are made by practitioners who do not have the skill and training to harvest stem cells from their patients. They make use of tissue banks that sell them small quantities of tissue that has been radiated to prevent infection. These commercial tissues have been shown to contain no living cells. Nonetheless, they are advertised as ‘fetal stem cell’ treatments that are better than the patients own stem cells.
When properly performed, orthopedic stem cell therapy can have powerful effects on arthritic joints, torn ligaments, damaged muscles, and broken bones. Stem cell therapy is reserved for treatment of:
It is generally used when regenerative treatment with platelet rich plasma is not thought to be sufficient or has been unsuccessful. In our clinic, stem cells are obtained from bone marrow despite being found in greater numbers in adipose or fat tissue. This is because more research showing success has been done using stem cells from bone marrow. There is also evidence to suggest that stem cells from bone marrow have a greater ability to become the cells of interest, i.e. cartilage/ligament / tendon/or bone cells. Finally, aspirating stem cells from bone marrow rather than fat tissue has fewer risks.
Like any true medical procedure, stem cell treatment has a success rate as well as a failure rate. Stem cell medicine is not ‘magic’. Rather, it is the application of advanced technology to harness the body’s repair mechanisms to treat orthopedic conditions. After treating thousands of patients, we have developed clinical criteria for who is a good candidate for stem cell treatment and who is not. The success of stem cell orthopedics reduces the need for orthopedic surgery for many of our patients. It is the best option for patients who do not want or cannot have surgery.
If you are seeking a minimally invasive alternative to surgery to allow you to return to normal daily activities, a fit and active lifestyle or perhaps perform better in the athletic and sports activities you wish to enjoy, Regenerative Orthopedic Medicine treatment with stem cells may be an appropriate option for you.
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We perform stem cell injections on an outpatient basis. The procedure is actually performed over the course of a week with three separate injections done a day or two apart. There is a pre-injection of an irritant solution on the first day, the stem cell aspiration and re-injection on the second, followed by a post-injection of platelet rich plasma on the third. We use a gardening analogy to describe the three days of injections: on the first day, we are tilling the soil, on the second planting the seed, and, on the third day we add some fertilizer.
Light sedation either oral or IV is used with careful local anesthesia so you will be comfortable and able to talk. The pre-injection & post-injection of stem cell treatment procedures are simple, quick injections. The longest day involves harvesting the stem cells, concentrating them in the laboratory, and then re-injecting them into the damaged tissues. This takes the better part of three hours.
It is important to remember that the body heals itself through inflammation. This inflammation will be greatest the day following the stem cell injection. There will be a minor flare of that inflammation following the post-injection of platelet poor plasma. Because we want nothing to interfere with the healing process, anti-inflammatory medications are strictly forbidden. You will be given alternative medications to keep you comfortable. The worst of the stiffness and soreness following injection is gone in a few days to a week on average.
Some people begin to feel results immediately, although it’s more likely that it will take a few days or even weeks to begin to see significant effects or to feel that your symptoms have decreased. Keep in mind that stem cell treatment is a “repair” process which usually takes 2-3 months to be fully effective and produce the desired results. Remember, in addition to the latest research and technology, the best stem cell treatment in Connecticut requires time and patience!
Interventional Orthopedic treatment using stem cells is often the nonsurgical treatment of choice to help patients heal and repair arthritis of the knee, hip, neck, and back. Regenerative Orthopedic injections using stem cells offers non-surgical treatment of injuries to cartilage or cartilage degeneration, including meniscus tears of the knee, labral tears of the hip, and annular tears of the lumbar and cervical discs.
If you, a family member or friend wish to learn more about stem cell treatment, please Schedule an Appointment with Regenerative Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialist Daniel Southern, M.D. in Danbury or Wilton in Fairfield County Connecticut by calling 203-456-5717.