Frequently Asked Questions

What are stem cells?
Think of stem cells as seeds that give rise to a flower or tree. Stem cells are naturally occurring cells in the human body that have the ability to change or “differentiate” into many different types of cells. Stem cells have become emerging science and the main focus of regenerative medicine. Stem cells have the ability to become different cells that can then produce bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells. Stem cells can then be used to help regenerate damaged or injured areas of the body such as painful arthritic joints. 

What is stem cell therapy? 
Stem cell therapy is an nonsurgical interventional treatment that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged areas such as joints in order to treat the disease or injury. There have been numerous research studies showing that stem cells have regenerative potential. There are numerous research studies presently studying the effects of stem cell therapy on musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis. The premise for their efficacy is the ability of stem cells to self-renew and give rise to new cells through their ability to differentiate and potentially replace diseases and damaged tissue. 

What are the main advantages of stem cell therapy?
As surgeons we have see the potential complications with any surgical procedure from minor to at times life or limb threatening. Since stem cell therapy uses a needle to deliver the cells it is not only very safe but also no damage is being done to important muscles and structures surrounding the joints or spine. Moreover, no steroids are used in stem cell therapy. We know there can be harmful side effects with multiple steroid injections due to local and systemic absorption. 

What type of stem cells do we use?
We use adult stem cells that are derived from the patient’s own body.  These are called Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC).  The use of adult stem cells does not require the destruction of an embryo. 

Is there a risk for rejection of the stem cells by the body?
Since the stem cells are derived from the patient, the risk of rejection is non-existent. 

Where are the stem cells harvested from?
Stem cells are harvested from the patient’s pelvic (hip) bone marrow in an office setting without the need for general anesthesia. This is very safe and it is a good source of stem cells for the vast majority of patients regardless of their age, body weight or size. 

How are stem cells processed?
The stem cells are then concentrated using sophisticated technology and injected into the desired target area in the same office setting. This is a outpatient office procedure with little to no “down” time.

Is stem cell harvesting painful?
Generally there is minimal discomfort from harvesting stem cells. The harvest site is numbed with ample local anesthetic and patients are comfortable during this outpatient procedure.  

What are the common side effects of stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is very safe and has very minimal side effects. Local tenderness and/or swelling at the injection site is most common symptom and typically resolves in 24 or 48 hours. 

In what conditions or disorders may stem cell therapy be helpful?
Stem cell therapy can be used in any condition where the normal anatomy has been degraded due to injury or natural aging causing degeneration and arthritis. Common conditions include arthritis of the hip, knee, shoulder, and ankle joints. Degenerative discs and arthritis in the spine causing back or neck pain. Ligament injuries or inflammation of ligaments (tendinitis) in the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, foot and ankle. Please contact us for specific conditions pertaining to you. 

What are some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis that may improve with stem cell therapy?
Pain – your joints may ache specially in the morning and in the evening. The ache can be dull or sharp. 
Stiffness – when you have arthritis, the joint becomes stiff due to the cartilage wear and lack of lubrication. This is typically more noticeable when getting up in the morning. Your joints may feel stiff  for a period of time until you increase your activity during the day. 
Muscle Weakness – the muscles can weaken around the arthritic joint due to disuse and lack of motion. 
Swelling- arthritis can cause joint swelling, making them feel tender and sore. 
Reduced range of motion of the joint – as arthritis worsens patients may not be able to fully bend or extend the joint. 

How are stem cells placed into the arthritic joint?
Once harvested and processed, the stem cells are injected into the targeted joint under direct visualization using X-ray or ultrasound to ensure accurate placement. 

What is PRP? 
PRP is Platelet-Rich Plasma. Platelets are vital for healing cuts as they are vital to clotting bleeding. As surgeons we relay on the function of platelets to stop bleeding during and heal the scar after surgery. Platelets are also release by the body as a normal response to the site of injury. They release certain growth factors that promote healing through increased blood flow, reduce inflammation and recruitment of stem cells to the site of injury.  

How is PRP collected?
A volume of patient’s own blood is collected and then using a centrifuge the platelets are concentrated (typically 3-5 fold) and injected into the site of injury or inflammation.   

PRP vs. Stem Cells: Which is better?
We think of PRP as a fertilizer that promotes accelerated healing. PRP can have the same applications clinically as adult stem cells (Mesenchymal Stem Cells). However, we believe that PRP is best used for soft tissue or tendon injuries or inflammation that would slow to heal or keep recurring.  MSCs are ideal for conditions where there is lost or degraded tissue such as cartilage in the arthritic joint or intervertebral discs in the degenerative spine. Stem cells can help regenerate the lost tissue by differentiating into the desired cells that are depleted or lost.  Typically only one stem cell application is needed per anatomic site whereas, 2 or 3 applications spaced apart are needed for PRP.

Can stem cell treatment be repeated for the same site?
Yes. However, most patients only need one stem cell treatment per site. 

What is the cost for a stem cell or PRP treatment?
The cost depends on the type of treatment and its application. Financing is available for the procedure. Please contact our office for details. 

Are these procedures covered by my insurance? 
Although stem cell therapy is being used all over the world for many applications, their use in orthopaedics are considered novel therapy and most insurance companies do not cover these procedures.