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What is Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cell therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that utilizes the body’s natural healing mechanism to treat various conditions.

Stem cells are being used in regenerative medicine to renew and repair diseased or damaged tissues and have shown promising results in the treatment of various orthopedic, cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and autoimmune conditions.

Stem cells are present in all of us, acting like a repair system for the body. However, with increased age, the necessary amount of stem cells is not present at the injured area. The goal of stem cell therapy is to amplify this natural repair system by increasing the numbers of stem cells at the injury site.

Types of Stem Cells

There are two major types of stem cells; embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. 

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are stem cells derived from human embryos. They are pluripotent, which means they have the ability to develop into almost any of the various cell types of the body.

As the embryo develops and forms a baby, stem cells are distributed throughout the body, where they reside in specific pockets of tissue such as the bone marrow and blood. As we age, these cells function to renew old and worn out tissues and cells. These are called adult stem cells or somatic stem cells. Like embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells can also turn into more than one cell type, but their differentiation is restricted to a limited number of cell types.

Use of Stem Cells in Orthopedics

The unique self-regenerating and differentiating ability of embryonic stem cells can be used in regenerative medicine. These stem cells can be derived from eggs collected during IVF procedures with informed consent from the patient.

Adult stem cells can be harvested from many areas in the body including adipose tissue (fat), bone marrow, and peripheral blood. The mesenchymal stem cells are most commonly harvested for stem cell therapy. These have the ability to turn into cells that form the musculoskeletal system such as tendons, ligaments, and articular cartilage and are usually obtained from the bone marrow. A needle is inserted into the iliac crest of the pelvic bone to extract the stem cells from the bone marrow.

Currently, stem cell therapy is used to treat various degenerative conditions of the shoulders, knees, hips, and spine. Stem cells are also being used in the treatment of various soft tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons as well as bone-related injuries.

Application of Stem Cells in the Treatment of Hip Injuries/Conditions

Stem cell therapy can be used to treat various hip injuries and conditions such as:

  • Joint Arthritis
  • Trochanteric Bursitis
  • Iliopsoas Bursitis 
  • Labrum Tear
  • Osteonecrosis of the Femoral Head
  • Iliopsoas/iliotibial Band Tendinitis

Who is a Good Candidate for Stem Cell Therapy?

You may be a good candidate for stem cell therapy if you have been suffering from pain due to any of the above injuries or conditions and want to improve your quality of life while avoiding complications related to invasive surgical procedures.

Preparing for Stem Cell Therapy

It is important that you stop taking any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at least two weeks before your procedure. Preparing for a stem cell procedure is relatively easy and your doctor will give you specific instructions depending on your condition.

Stem Cell Therapy Procedure for the Hip

The procedure begins with your doctor extracting stem cells from your own bone marrow. Bone marrow is usually aspirated from the pelvic bone. Your doctor will first clean and numb your hip area. A needle is then introduced into an area of your pelvic bone known as the iliac crest. Bone marrow is then aspirated using a special syringe and the sample obtained is sent to the laboratory. In the laboratory, the aspirate is spun in a machine for 10 to 15 minutes and a concentrated stem cell sample is separated.
Your doctor then cleans and numbs the area of your hip requiring treatment and under the guidance of special X-rays, injects the stem cells into the region. The whole procedure usually takes less than one hour, and you may return home on the same day.

Postoperative Care for Stem Cell Therapy

  • You will most likely be able to return to work the next day following your procedure. 
  • You will need to take it easy and avoid any load bearing activities for at least two weeks. 
  • You will need to refrain from taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) for a while as this can affect your healing process.

Advantages of Stem Cell Therapy 

Stem cell therapy is a relatively simple procedure that avoids the complications associated with invasive surgical procedures. As stem cell therapy uses the cells derived from your own body, it reduces the chances of an immune rejection. 

Disadvantages of Stem Cell Therapy

There is a general lack of data about the long-term effects of stem cell therapy as it is a new procedure.

Risks and Complications of Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy is generally considered a safe procedure with minimal complications; however, as with any medical procedure, complications can occur.

Risk factors related to stem cell therapy include infection as bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens that can cause disease may be introduced while obtaining the stem cells or while injecting the stem cells into damaged tissue. Rarely, an immune reaction may occur from injected stem cells.