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Information on Stem Cell Therapy for joint problems

There is a widely held misconception about the term ‘Stem Cells’.  For many, the words ‘Stem Cell is associated with either cloning, or cells taken from an unborn foetus. However, this is not the case. Stem Cells have been around for over 20 years, and it is now known that stem cells can be obtained from almost anywhere in the body.

Types of Stem Cell Treatment:
The ‘Gold’ standard of Stem Cell treatment is stem cells taken from Body Fat (Adipose Tissue). Here the highest cell counts are to be found.

Adipose Tissue Derived Stem Cells
This treatment involves collection of the body fat via liposuction, and is known as the ‘Gold Standard Treatment’, as it contains exceptionally high cell counts for most patients, and has the power to treat multiple joints with an intravenous injection.

Separating Stem Cells
Stem cell removal is carried out using mechanical and external ultrasound assisted cell separation methods. The Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF) contains multiple cell strands that are beneficial to our bodies, and works systemically as a whole body approach. These cells can help repair blood vessels, and help regulate the immune system -- as well as many other types of repairs; and thus can be of great benefit to damage in the body.

Another important factor regarding SVF cells is their ability to ‘home in’ to those areas that display inflammation and/or are damaged – and need repair.  This means SVF can home in to and repair multiple tissues - in a single treatment.

Stem Cells can help Osteoarthritis:
The aim of Stem Cell treatment is to lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis, e.g. pain, stiffness and loss of strength in the joints. The aim is to treat the damaged tissue that is the cause of the discomfort. Although Stem Cell therapy can be considered a new treatment for osteoarthritis in general, it has been around for more than 20 years, and used in medicine since 2009.

Stromal cells have the potential to carry out repairs as follows:

  • They target on and fight inflammation (thus reducing pain)
  • They increase the production of synovial fluid (increase lubrication of your joints)
  • They make a distinction between specific tissue types, and repair the damaged layer of cartilage together with connective tissue, ie tendons, muscles and ligaments.
  • They resolve nerve-related pain such as burning, tingling and numbness.

Can Stem Cells Regenerate Cartilage?
Yes - if you have cartilage in your joints then these cells can regenerate it.   Various studies have shown encouraging results with regeneration of cartilage tissue.

Which Joints can benefit from Stem Cell treatment?

  • Hands and wrists
  • Elbows
  • Shoulders
  • Spine, inclusive from the neck to the lower back
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Ankles/feet

Can Stem Cell therapy be effective for ‘Bone on Bone’?
When joints become ‘bone on bone’ the lubrication of the joint will have degenerated, there will be joint inflammation, and supporting structures such as tendons and the bone surface will have become sclerosed. However, stromal cells can repair this damage to the joint, increase lubrication, and repair the degeneration and inflammation. The cells will not grow cartilage where it has completely worn away, but there is still the ability, as a result of the treatment, to be free of pain and totally mobile.

Is Stem Cell Therapy effective for knees?
Yes, stem cell therapy is an appropriate treatment for knee pain, inflammation and cartilage loss caused by osteoarthritis.  Good results have been obtained and as a result knee joints are the most common joints treated with Stem Cells and they respond very well.

Which Stem Cells are most effective?
It has been found, as mentioned above, that the Stromal stem cells are the most useful in Stem Cell treatment.  Stromal cells are a combination of mesenchymal and haematopoietic stem cells including all of the cell strands suspended from the fat stroma.  Because of this stromal cells are always used in all the osteoarthritis stem cell treatments to maximize the effectiveness and give the most beneficial result.

Does a Patient’s Age and Weight affect the effectiveness of Stem Cell therapy?
Stem cells obtained from adipose tissue (body fat) do not undergo the same ageing process as the body does – and studies have confirmed this.  Results show that weight does not appear to change a patient’s response to their own cells. Excellent improvement has been seen in patients regardless of their weight.

It should be mentioned, however, that although your weight will not affect your response to Stem Cell treatment, you should understand and remember that weight can make a big impact on general wear and tear.

Age – patients as young as 18 and as old as 94 have undergone Stem Cell using adipose derived SVF treatment with good results.

What is the Success Rate of the Treatment?
A 97% chance of success
has been noted in regard to patients responding to their own Stem Cells.   It should be taken into account though that each and every patient will respond differently.  The majority of patients who have received Stem Cell treatment report an average of 
75% improvement in relation to their pain, stiffness and strength of the joint.

Is Stem Cell Treatment effective for Osteoarthritis in the Shoulder?
Stem cell therapy is proving to be very promising for the treatment of arthritis in the shoulder and has the potential to provide relief from shoulder pain. Some very successful results have been obtained.

Is Stem Cell Treatment effective for Osteoarthritis in Hands/fingers/thumbs and Toes?
Quality of life can be seriously affected by osteoarthritis in the hands and feet, even though they are smaller joints. Stem Cell therapy can provide a very good success rate for the smaller joints such as these. Patients have reported a quicker response to their Stem Cell Treatment than to any other joint in the body.

Points to remember:

  • Age makes no difference
  • The grade of osteoarthritis makes no difference (from mild to bone on bone)
  • Body weight makes no difference
  • If a patient suffers from Gout it needs to be well controlled prior to any treatment

Contra-indications for Stem Cell Treatment
There are, however, some medical conditions that are a contra-indication for Stem Cell therapy. If the body is weakened due to a medical problem, your home doctor might consider that you should not go ahead with the treatment.  These conditions are:

  • Low BMI or inadequate fat stores
  • Blood disorders
  • Unstable illness
  • Cancer
  • Dementia

If you suffer from any of the above it is important that you provide details of your medical condition so that advice as to your suitability can be given.  However, treatment will only be refused in those cases where the effects could be detrimental to a patient’s health.

Also, please note: …....
Blood thinning medications
- these are of particular concern; Warfarin, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, NSAIDs; also all herbal medications/preparations (which are often assumed to be perfectly safe), and omega/fish oils that also thin the blood.   If taking any of these you can still have the Stem Cell Therapy, but you will have to stop taking any of the above blood thinners for 10 days before you have the treatment.

  • Gout - unless properly controlled, gout can cause a flare up of inflammation/swelling which will kill the freshly transplanted cells. Should a patient suffer from this, it should be discussed with the home doctor to make sure it is under control.
  • Age - as mentioned above, age itself does not preclude Stem Cell therapy; however patients should remember that with age illness etc. happens more often in many people.
  • Cancer - as yet the effect that Stem Cells might have on cancer is not yet known. They could worsen it, improve it, or they might have no effect at all!  Therefore, until studies and further research is able to provide a definite answer, Stem Cell treatment will not be given to patients with cancer – or those who have undergone cancer treatment and have been free of it for a minimum of 3 years.


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Cosmetic Surgery Abroad   |   Page last updated 18 March  2021