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Stem Cell Therapy: Treating Knee Pain Without Surgery

Author: Tim Bert, M.D.

Twenty years ago most patients with knee pain had only one serious treatment option available to them: knee replacement surgery. Over the last ten years, knee replacement surgery been intensely refined. Many patients can now choose a minimally invasive operation; some technologies even create a custom implant designed for the patient’s unique anatomy.

But what if you didn’t have to undergo any kind of surgery at all? New developments in stem cell therapy could make non-surgical knee pain treatment a viable option for an increasing number of patients. It’s already happening now.

How Does Stem Cell Therapy Work?

Stem cell injections may be used to treat osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The treatment uses injections of amniotic membrane, which is rich in stem cells, into the knee. The amniotic membrane contains all of the cells and components necessary for tissue regeneration, and – when injected into the injured or arthritic area – can provide growth factors and decrease inflammation.  The tissue is collected at the time of cesarean section and there are no ethical issues since the tissue is not manipulated other than to cryopreserve it.

Stem cells have the unique ability to turn into specialized cells that the body needs, which is why they are so valuable for treating joint pain in the knee (where cartilage has permanently worn away).

Are Stem Cell Injections Safe?

Stem cell injections are as safe as other types of knee injections, including viscosupplementation and corticosteroid injections. The processing technology and donor screening process follow strict guidelines, as set forth by the FDA and the American Association of Tissues Banks. Serologic blood tests are then performed to rule out the potential for infectious disease transmission.

Stem cell therapy is still being researched and tested in the clinical setting. However, several research groups have taken tremendous strides toward creating safe, reliable, and effective stem cell injection techniques.

Can Stem Cell Therapy Improve the Symptoms of Knee Arthritis?

Amniotic membrane injections have shown promising results in healing chronic wounds and damaged tissues, such as tendons and muscles. (Small studies have shown promising results in musculoskeletal conditions.) The benefits of amniotic membrane injection applications continue to be explored.

For more information about treating knee pain, please contact Hedley Orthopaedic Institute at 602-553-3113.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.

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