What Is a Stem Cell Injection?
Stem cells are specialized cells that can turn into any other type of cell. While there a number of sources for stem cells, in orthopedics the cells are usually harvested from the patient’s own bone marrow. They are primarily used to speed the healing of bone, ligament, tendon and muscle.
Common Reasons for Stem Cell Injections
Stem cell injections can be used for:
- Achilles tendon injuries
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
- Cartilage defects
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries
- Meniscus conditions
- Osteonecrosis of the femur
- Poorly healed fractures (nonunion)
- Rotator cuff injury
- Spine injury
- Tennis elbow
Candidates for Stem Cell Injections
Stem cell injections are rarely the first line of treatment. Patients who have tried conservative treatments—such as anti-inflammatories, rest, ice and physical therapy without success—but are not ready for surgical interventions may be candidates for stem cell injections.
The following are not suitable candidates for stem cell injections:
- Patients who have had bloodborne cancer, such as leukemia or lymphoma, in the last five years
- Patients who take blood thinners
- Patients with an active infection
- Patients with multiple medical conditions
The first step in stem cell therapy is obtaining the stem cells. There are multiple ways to do so. Bone marrow aspiration is the process of drawing out bone marrow from the hip. Stem cells can also come from adipose tissue (fat). Some facilities use an amniotic fluid preparation.
Next, the stem cells must be isolated from the rest of the cells if they come from bone marrow or adipose tissue. This is done in a specialized machine. Finally, the stem cells are injected into the affected area. Often, the injection is guided by ultrasound.
Neither bone marrow aspiration nor the injection of the stem cells is particularly painful, but it can be uncomfortable. Most patients begin to feel the results in six to eight weeks. Anti-inflammatories and other medications that increase the risk of bleeding should not be used immediately following the injection.
Results will vary based on the individual, the type of injury being treated, the location of the injury and its severity. While most patients report positive results, there have been very few scientific studies done on the effectiveness of stem cell therapy for orthopedic conditions. Because these treatments are considered experimental, most insurance carriers do not cover them, so stem cell injections are typically an out-of-pocket expense.
Request an Appointment
If you’d like to request an appointment, follow the link below and answer a few short questions. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you for choosing Summit Medical Group.