what you need to know
Stem cell injections have had a recent and growing rise in popularity in the field of orthopaedics. Patients seek out this form of treatment as a means to decrease pain, improve function, and prolong time before needing surgery. Physicians at Orthopaedic Associates of Wisconsin (OAW) have taken a cautious approach to offering stem cell injections to our patients. Let’s take a closer look as to why.
Stem cells are cells that have the ability to become any other type of cell. When placed in the right environment, they could become cartilage, tendon, muscle, or bone. When stem cells are obtained from an individual and given back to that same person they are called “autologous.” In orthopaedic injections, autologous stem cells are typically harvested from one’s bone marrow at the iliac crest (hip bone) or adipose tissue (fat).
Stem cells obtained not from the person they were intended for are called “allogenic.” Most allogenic stem cells are obtained from amniotic or placental tissue. The FDA does not permit the use of allogenic stem cells in orthopaedics.
Other injectable substances obtained from a patient’s body are also in use. An example is platelet rich plasma (PRP). This is sometimes referred to as growth factor therapy. Blood is taken from a patient, spun down in a centrifuge process, and the plasma containing growth factors is injected at the site of injury.
Stem cell clinics in our own communities, as well as throughout the country, are claiming biological treatments such as stem cells and PRP are guaranteed to grow new cartilage in an arthritic joint. These claims, however, are not based on scientific evidence. As such, physicians at OAW support the scientific community in asserting—at this time—that stem cell injections have not been proven to replace damaged cartilage. When an individual does benefit from one of these injections, it is likely because the environment in the joint has been changed. This may decrease inflammation and cartilage breakdown leading to less pain and better function.
We at OAW feel that biological treatments have a role in treating patients with painful joints. We offer bone marrow aspirate (BMAC) stem cell therapy to patients we feel may benefit. If you would like more information regarding stem cell injections, physicians at OAW will be happy to discuss with you this type of treatment and determine if it is right for you.