For many patients with debilitating knee pain, treatment options are limited: steroid injections, high doses of pain medications, bracing and ultimately joint replacement surgery. In the last few years, innovative treatment options like amniotic membrane stem cell injections are now being used to successfully treat patients with a multitude of degenerative orthopedic conditions.
NOTE: the stem cells that we are referring to are harvested from the amnion, or inner layer, of the placenta (“birth sac”) of a recently delivered baby – not from an embryo/unborn child. There are obvious ethical issues with embryonic stem cell therapy, but almost everyone agrees that the use of amniotic stem cell therapy raises no ethical or moral issues.
How does amniotic stem cell therapy work and what benefits does stem cell therapy offer?
Stem cell therapy is a regenerative injection technique that infuses a damaged joint with stem cells from amniotic tissues into your body, as well as the other components that make up the amniotic tissue layer: growth factors that stimulate tissue growth, hyaluronic acid (a natural joint lubricant/buffer that improves mobility), and naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agents such as cytokines et. al. This is collectively known as a “placental tissue matrix.” While this matrix has anti-inflammatory properties, much like cortisone and steroid shots, the beneficial effects of stem cell therapy goes well beyond the benefits and capabilities of standard injection therapy. Stem cell injections also have antimicrobial (germ-killing) and anti-fibrotic (i.e. ability to break down scar tissue) properties as well.
Injectable steroids and oral or topical pain medications only provide temporary pain relief and to nothing to address the underlying problem; stem cells restore damaged tissue while providing pain relief. The growth factors in amniotic stem cells may replace damaged cells in your body.
Are stem cell injections safe?
While there are risks with any procedure that involves injections, the laboratory that Vitality Medical Centers uses for their stem cells has, to date, reported over 150,000 stem cell injection procedures without a single reported adverse effect. There are, of course, always risks associated with an injection procedure (e.g. pain, bleeding, risk of infection, etc.) but sterile technique and administration by a trained physician minimizes these risks.
- Amniotic stem cell therapy is a preferred type of stem cell therapy because the cells come from an immune privileged site, which means that patient-rejection is all but non-existent.
- The use of amniotic stem cells is well researched, safe, and effective. Amniotic stem cells have been used by ophthalmologists and plastic surgeons for the last 20 years.
- All amniotic stem cell donors go through a rigorous screening process, as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB).
Am I a candidate for stem cell therapy?
Patients suffering from any kind of joint, tendon, or ligament pain may be potential candidates for amniotic stem cell therapy. Please keep in mind that not every patient is a reasonable candidate for stem cell therapy and that results from these injections may vary from no response to complete relief of symptoms. Upon evaluation, our physician may be able to provide you with alternative recommendations for treatment of particular conditions, such as physical therapy, viscosupplementation, prolotherapy or PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections, chiropractic care, etc.
What if I have a torn knee ligament?
Stem cell therapy can treat torn knee ligaments as long as there is not a complete tear. In cases where the tear is severe, but there are still some fibers attached, a higher number of injections may be required. Typically, the less severe the injury, the fast the healing time. Factors such as age, obesity, tobacco use, and other health factors can influence the number of injections needed as well as the healing time.
How long will it take me to recover?
The procedure itself takes about an hour in the office. After the procedure, tissue typically takes between one and three months to repair itself, but most patients will notice a change in their symptoms within one to two months. While the total number of injections required may vary depending on age and the type and severity of the condition, most patients require 2-4 sets of injections spaced apart.