Why Am I Experiencing Chronic Pain In My Joints and Tendons?
As we age, our bodies undergo wear and tear from daily life, injuries and athletics. We produce less of our “repair” cells (referred to as mesenchymal stem cells) as we age, requiring more time for healing. In some cases, the joint damage can be so significant that the body cannot repair itself at all.
If this is the case, patients will need to inquire about a treatment such as stem cell therapy for joint and tendon pain, or perhaps even surgery.
What is Bone Marrow?
Bone marrow is soft, spongy tissue that fills the centers of the large bones in our bodies, such as the thigh and hip. There are two types of bone marrow: red bone marrow, which is known as myeloid tissue and yellow bone marrow, which is known as fatty tissue. Making up approximately 4% of the human body’s total mass, bone marrow creates up to a 200 billion new blood cells every day, in a process called hematopoiesis.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are "unspecialized" and therefore have the remarkable capability to renew themselves and transform into many different cell types within a living body. There is an abundance of stem cells in the body’s bone marrow and adipose tissue (fat cells).
In many of the body’s tissues, stem cells serve as an internal repair system, continuously dividing in order to replenish other cells within the tissue. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential either to remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a cartilage producing cell, muscle cell, red blood cell, or even a brain cell.
What are Bone Marrow Derived Stem Cell Injections?
The medical community has known for a long time that stem cells carry regenerative qualities. Stem cells harness the healing power of your own body and work to actually repair damaged tissue. Qualified medical providers around the country are now safely and successfully using stem cells to fight certain conditions which cause tendon and joint pain, such as osteoarthritis.
The stem cells from bone marrow are “unspecialized” and can differentiate into specific types of cells such as muscle, cartilage, tendon, and bone in order to “regenerate” the injured or damaged area of the body. The pelvis (ilium) carries the richest level of bone marrow, holding the greatest concentration of stem cells.
This is exciting news for patients suffering from chronic joint or tendon pain, who are looking for an alternative to surgery or have even been told they are not a candidate for surgery. If you have questions or would like a consultation with Dr. Wagner to see if you are a candidate for a stem cell injection, please contact Seattle Sports and Regenerative Medicine
How Are the Stem Cell Injections Performed?
Because bone marrow in the hip (pelvis) holds the greatest concentration of stem cells, Dr. Wagner extracts a sample of bone marrow from the patient’s sterilized and numbed hip. Once the bone marrow is collected it is immediately filtered and spun down in a highly specialized centrifuge in our office. Mini liposuction is then performed in the “love handle” region to harvest stem cells from this rich fatty tissue. This sample then undergoes a similar regimen.
This process separates out a high concentrate of stem cells, which is then used for treatment. Under ultrasound guidance for exact placement, the patient’s stem cells are then injected back into their injured or painful joint and or tendon. From this point, the unspecialized stem cells transform into the specific cells unique to their new environment, promoting healing and therefore reducing pain and increasing function.
What Are The Risks?
Well over 5 million stem cell procedures for osteoarthritis have been performed in the United States with no adverse effects reported. All stem cell treatments at Seattle Sports and Regenerative Medicine are performed by Dr. Mark Wagner, M.D., who is Board Certified and has worked with a number of highly regarded physicians around the country to insure that he can provide this treatment safely and responsibly. When not seeing patients, he also enjoys speaking to other physicians and physical therapists in the area, educating them on this state of the art treatment.
All stem cell injections are done with the use of ultrasound guidance to ascertain safety and accuracy of the injection. Dr. Wagner will provide this therapy by using the patient’s own stem cells, collected from the patient’s bone marrow and fatty tissue. Since the cells come from the patient’s own body, there is no chance of your body rejecting the stem cells, and a minimal chance of the body experiencing infection as there is this risk with any injection. You can expect the site where Dr. Wagner injected the stem cells to be sore for a day or two following the procedure.
What Else Do I Need to Know About This Procedure?
The entire appointment lasts about 90 minutes and is performed in our procedure room, right in our office. A local anesthetic is used so that the patient is as comfortable as possible, although most patients experience little pain. For the sake of safety, we do ask that you plan for someone to drive you home from the appointment, and plan on relaxing for the remainder of the day.
How long will the appointment for my stem cell treatment take?
Your appointment on the day of treatment will take place in our office and last approximately 90 minutes. Everything necessary for the treatment, including blood draws, will be taken care of during the 90 minute appointment.
Although there is typically little to no downtime with stem cell therapy, we do recommend that you refrain from heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for 6 weeks.
How Long Does the Repair Process Take?
Generally, significant improvement will be noticed at six to twelve weeks. However, the repair process will continue out to two years. In most cases, however, improvement can be noticed earlier.
Can a Procedure Fail?
Like all medical procedures, there is no guarantee with stem cell therapy. In some rare cases, it is possible that a patient may need additional treatments or perhaps the patient did not have enough repair potential relative to the severity of his or her disease. However, Dr. Wagner has experienced an 85%-90% success rate, defined by decreased pain and improved function. Dr. Wagner and his staff will be happy to further discuss these risks with you.
If the Stem Cell Therapy Doesn’t Work, Am I Still Able To Have Surgery?
Yes, there is nothing about this procedure, or PRP that will preclude you from having surgery.
Is The Procedure Covered By Insurance?
Stem cell therapy and PRP are not covered by health insurance at this time. Payment is requested at the time of the procedure.