Osteoarthritis of the Knee. The Role of Stem Cell Knee Injections.
Does stem cell knee treatment have a role in osteoarthritis of the knee – which is the commonest type of arthritis? This degenerative joint disease can occur primarily due to unknown causes. On the other hand, secondary osteoarthritis follows trauma to the affected area. The main signs and symptoms include:
- Pain and joint hotness
In the U.S alone the incidence of osteoarthritis stands at 13.9 % of the adult population aged above 25 years. As of 2005 an estimated 26.9 million Americans were living with the condition.
This data clearly shows the magnitude of osteoarthritis problem. The currently used treatment has its safety issues. According to the same source, deaths associated with osteoarthritis are under-estimated because those that occur due to bleeding related with the use of the anti-inflammatory drugs are not included. The question is whether stem cell therapy can offer better and safer results.
Stem cell treatment in knee osteoarthritis
As seen above the current treatment for osteoarthritis with drugs has one major drawback. The gastric ulceration the drugs cause has led to gastrointestinal bleeding and deaths. Stem cell therapy has been in use for some years now and many studies suggest that it offers far superior results than what is achieved with drugs. The main difference is how each mode of treatment works to offer pain relief and reduce inflammation, and the ability to slow or modify the degenerative cascade of arthritis.
The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used act by interfering with the way the body deals with inflammation and pain. The action is not isolated to the joint alone. This is why NSAIDs cause other problems in the gut because the way they act interferes with the way the gut lining protects itself from gastric erosions. On the other hand knee stem cell injections act in a different way.
The body has its own natural way of dealing with injury and ensuing inflammation and pain. This mechanism in part involves stem cells. For some problems like osteoarthritis of the knee where the cartilage is already affected, this mechanism may be unable to restore joint functions fast enough before more damage occurs. Injecting stem cells harvested from the same patient (autologous) into the affected knee work by supporting the body to do what it would do naturally to heal itself
Benefits of knee stem cells injection in osteoarthritis.
- Studies have seen that knee stem cell therapy promote cartilage regeneration. This does not happen with NSAIDs, corticosteroids or even surgical intervention
- Since the stem cells used are from the same patient there is no risk of autoimmune reactions and rejection.
- The procedure is an outpatient operation where the patient is treated and released home.
- The stem cell therapy does not cause undesirable effects on other part of the body.
- The cost of treatment is comparatively low compared to surgery.
- Recovery is also faster.
- While surgery can initiate other surgery related complications, like joint stiffness, infection, effusion or even further osteoarthritis and nerve damage, use of stem cells have no such complications.
- The use of anti-inflammatory drugs is minimal and may eventually be stopped. On the other hand patient’s on NSAIDs are sometimes forced to increase the dosages of the drugs they are taking in order to achieve similar pain relief results.
The future of knee stem cell therapy can only get brighter as more mainstream medical practitioners embrace its use. Those who do not use it do not do so because there are ethical or safety questions. Some of them feel that more research is needed but the use of stem cells in knee osteoarthritis is promising.
The available data however, is enough to show that stem cell therapy may play a major role in the management of osteoarthritis of the knee.
About Dennis M. Lox, M.D.
Whether you are a professional athlete, weekend warrior, or have arthritis from aging, Dr. Lox can help.
Dennis M. Lox, M.D. is an internationally renown Sports and Regenerative Medicine specialist. Dr. Lox incorporates Regenerative Medicine techniques such as cell science applications, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), and Tissue Engineering aspects, to help patients from around the world with a vast array of problems. Dr. Lox is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Lox lectures extensively and has edited two PM&R textbooks, the prestigious A State of the Art Review (Star) on Low Back Pain, and Soft Tissue Injuries: Diagnosis and Treatment.
Dennis M. Lox, M.D. maintains an active practice in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, and in Beverly Hills, California.