What makes stem cells a good treatment option?
Stem cells found throughout the entire body, are known to multiply and transform into different type of cells. They automatically transform into the type of cell required for optimal healing and performance wherever they are in the body. So, when they are placed near damaged cartilage for example, they begin to transform into cartilage tissue, repairing the degeneration.
Adult stem cells are the ones used for this form of treatment. In the past, embryonic stem cells were the preferred type to experiment with for medicinal purposes. However, as they are taken directly from embryos, it caused a lot of controversy. The adult stem cells have shown to be just as effective at forming new tissue, eliminating the need for embryonic stem cells to be used.
The body continuously produces stem cells, which means they can be sourced at any time to help treat a variety of conditions.
How are they used in arthritis treatments?
In the treatment of arthritis, stem cells can be inserted into the affected area, either through injections or during surgery. With the injections, ultrasound guidance is often used to ensure the cells are being inserted into the correct area.
Where are the cells taken from?
With stem cell therapy, the cells are harvested from the patient’s own body. This means there are minimal risks involved and a decreased chance of side effects. As stem cells occur throughout the entire body, they can be taken from numerous donor sites.
In the case of arthritis treatment, Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MCS) tend to be the most effective. These are collected (harvested) from the bone marrow, fat tissues, or blood. The way they are collected will depend upon where they are being harvested.
With bone marrow harvesting, the cells are collected from the bones before being processed and then injected into the affected area. When taken from the blood, an injection is used to extract the cells, before they are processed and reinjected into the area. If the cells are taken from the fat tissue, they are usually collected via liposuction or surgery.
Who is suitable for stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy can be used to treat osteoarthritis in the majority of patients. It has shown to be particularly effective in younger patients who are suffering from mild or moderate cartilage damage or osteoarthritis.
Where can the stem cells be used?
A major benefit of stem cells is that they can be used in numerous parts of the body. When treating arthritis, they can be inserted into the joints, such as the hip, ankle, shoulder or knee. Once inside the joint, the cells get to work regenerating the cartilage.
When used within the knee and hip joint, the cells can also be used to regenerate bone. Where dead bone presents, it is referred to as Avascular Necrosis (AVN); A condition which can ultimately lead to chronic arthritis.
How does the procedure work?
Stem cell therapy is typically carried out under a general anaesthetic as a day procedure. It can be carried out with arthroscopy, though this isn’t always required.
Once the general anaesthetic has kicked in, the fat is harvested or bone marrow is extracted. It is then immediately processed before being injected back into the patient in the affected area.
In some cases, the surgeon may need to carry out a keyhole procedure before the cells are injected into the body. This involves getting the tissue bed ready for the harvested cells. Once prepared, the stem cells will be inserted via the keyhole.
Are there any side effects to stem cell therapy?
The side effects associated with stem cell therapy are the same as those experienced through knee or hip arthroscopy procedures. There is a very low risk of infection, though this is minimised due to the fact that the cells are taken from the patient’s own body, eliminating the risk of disease transmission.
What does stem cell therapy aftercare involve?
A follow-up appointment will take place approximately three months after the stem cell treatment. Provided the therapy has proven effective, results should last for around two to three years before additional treatment is required.
Patients are recommended to undergo an optional annual MRI scan, just to ensure the cartilage is healing correctly.
If you would like more information about stem cell therapy for your condition or would like to make an appointment. Please click on the Get in Touch button and our friendly and responsive team will be delighted to chat.