Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that utilizes the body’s natural healing mechanism to treat various conditions.

Stem cells are being used in regenerative medicine to renew and repair diseased or damaged tissues, and have shown promising results in treatments of various musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, neuromuscular and autoimmune conditions.

Stem cells are present in all of us acting like a repair system for the body. However, with increased age sometimes the optimum amount of stem cells is not delivered to the injured area. The goal of Stem Cell therapy is to amplify the natural repair system of the patient’s body.

Types of Stem Cells

There are two major types of stem cells embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are stem cells derived from human embryos. They are pluripotent, which means they have the ability to develop into almost any of the various cell types of the body.

As the embryo develops and forms a baby, stem cells are distributed throughout the body where they reside in specific pockets of each tissue, such as the bone marrow and blood. As we age, these cells function to renew old and worn out tissue cells. These are called adult stem cells or somatic stem cells. Like embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells can also replicate into more than one cell type, but their replication is restricted to a limited number of cell types.

Use of Stem Cells for Musculoskeletal Pain 

The unique self-regeneration and differentiating ability of embryonic stem cells can be used in regenerative medicine. These stem cells can be derived from eggs collected during IVF procedures with informed consent from the patient. However, many questions have been raised on the ethics of destroying a potential human life for the treatment of another.

Adult stem cells are most commonly obtained from the bone marrow, specifically the mesenchymal stem cells, which have the ability to replicate into cells that form the musculoskeletal system such as tendons, ligaments, and articular cartilage. They can be obtained from the iliac crest of the pelvic bone by inserting a needle and extracting the stem cells from the bone marrow.

Currently, stem cell therapy is used to treat various degenerative conditions of the shoulder, knees, hips, and spine that cause pain. They are also being used in the treatment of various soft tissue (muscle, ligaments and tendons) as well as bone-related injuries.

Who is a Good Candidate for a Stem Cell Procedure?

You may be a good candidate for stem cell therapy if you have been suffering from joint pain and want to improve your quality of life while avoiding complications related to invasive surgical procedures.

Preparing for the Procedure

  • It is important that you stop taking any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at least two weeks before your procedure.
  • Preparing for a stem cell procedure is relatively easy and Dr. Stilwell will give you specific instructions depending on your condition.

Procedure

The procedure begins with extracting stem cells from your own bone marrow. Bone marrow is usually aspirated from your hip region. Dr. Stilwell will first clean and numb your hip area. Using fluoroscopy, a needle is then introduced into an area of your pelvic bone known as the iliac crest. Fluoroscopy is an imaging technique that uses X-rays to obtain real-time moving images to ensure the needle is guided to the precise location. Bone marrow is then aspirated using a special syringe and the sample obtained is sent to the laboratory. In the laboratory, the aspirate is spun in a machine for 10 to 15 minutes and a concentrated stem cell sample is separated.

Dr. Stilwell then cleans and numbs your affected area to be treated and then, under the guidance of fluoroscopy or ultrasound, injects the stem cells into the affected region that is causing the pain.  The whole procedure usually takes less than one hour, requires no sedation and you may return home on the same day of the procedure.

Post-procedure Care

  • You will most likely be able to return to work that the day or the next day following your procedure.
  • You will need to take it easy and avoid any load bearing activities for at least two weeks following your procedure.
  • You will need to refrain from taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) for a while as this can affect the healing process of your body.

Benefits of Stem Cell Therapy

  • Stem cell therapy is a relatively simple procedure that avoids the complications associated with invasive surgical procedures.
  • As stem cell therapy uses the cells derived from your own body it reduces the chances of an immune rejection.

Risks and complications

Stem cell therapy is generally considered a safe procedure with minimal complications, however, as with any medical procedure, complications can occur.

Some risks factors related to stem cell therapy include infection as the stem cells may become contaminated with bacteria, viruses or other pathogens that may cause disease during the preparation process.

The procedure to either remove or inject the cells also has the risk of introducing an infection to the damaged tissue into which they are injected. Rarely, an immune reaction may occur from injected stem cells.

Stem Cells for Shoulder Pain

The Healthy Shoulder

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint made up of three bones, namely the humerus, scapula, and clavicle. The ends of all articulating bones are covered by smooth tissue called articular cartilage which allows the bones to slide over each other without friction enabling smooth movement.

The ligaments of the shoulder joint include coraco-clavicular ligaments, acromio-clavicular ligament, coraco-acromial ligament, and glenohumeral ligaments. The rotator cuff is the main group of muscles in the shoulder joint and is comprised of 4 muscles. The deltoid muscle forms the outer layer of the rotator cuff and is the largest and strongest muscle of the shoulder joint. Two important groups of tendons in the shoulder joint are the biceps tendons and rotator cuff tendons.

Shoulder Injuries

The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body enabling a wide range of movements. The most common shoulder injuries/diseases include

  • Shoulder Arthritis
  • Rotator Cuff Injury
  • Shoulder Bursitis
  • Glenoid Labrum Tear
  • Inflamed Synovial Membrane

Stem Cells for Hip Pain

The Healthy Hip

The hip joint is the largest weight-bearing joint in the human body. It is also referred to as a ball and socket joint and is surrounded by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The thigh bone or femur and the pelvis join to form the hip joint.

The hip joint is made up of the following:

  • Bones and joints
  • Ligaments of the joint capsule
  • Muscles and tendons
  • Nerves and blood vessels that supply the bones and muscles of the hip

Hip Injuries

Any injury or disease of the hip will adversely affect the joint’s range of motion and ability to bear weight. The most common hip injuries/diseases include

  • Hip Arthritis
  • Labral Tear
  • Trochanteric Bursitis
  • Avascular Necrosis
  • Inflamed Synovium

Stem Cells for Knee Pain

The Healthy Knee

The knee is made up of four bones. The femur or thighbone is the bone connecting the hip to the knee. The tibia or shinbone connects the knee to the ankle. The patella (kneecap) is the small bone in front of the knee and rides on the knee joint as the knee bends. The fibula is a shorter and thinner bone running parallel to the tibia on its outside. The joint acts like a hinge but with some rotation.

The knee is a synovial joint, which means it is lined by synovium. The synovium produces fluid lubricating and nourishing the inside of the joint. Articular cartilage is the smooth surfaces at the end of the femur and tibia. It is the damage to this surface which causes arthritis.

Knee Injuries

Any injury or disease of the knee will adversely affect the joint's range of motion. The most common knee injuries/diseases include

  • Knee Arthritis
  • Ligament Tear
  • Meniscal Tear
  • Patellar Tendinitis
  • Patellofemoral Instability
  • Cartilage Injury