What causes knee pain?
Knee pain occurs when an injury or chronic condition impacts the ligaments, tendons, fluid-sacs (bursae), bones, joints, and cartilage around the knee. Your knees play an important role in your day-to-day activities. So, when something isn’t quite right, you’re almost certain to notice. The most common causes include:
- Ligament injuries — including ACL, MCL, and PCL
- Torn meniscus
- Knee bursitis
- Patellar tendinitis
- Arthritis and other chronic conditions
Knee Pain Treatment Options
While some knee pain can be eased with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, more severe conditions may require minor or major surgery. At least, that used to be the only two options. Now stem cells are being used as an alternative to partial and total knee replacement surgeries.
Stem Cells for Knee Pain
Innovations Medical treats many of the causes of knee pain by deploying SVF through injection. It includes deploying stem cells through an IV. The benefits of IV deployment include the ability to reach less involved joints and tissues and to reduce inflammation. For more information about stem cells for knees, read our blog: Stem Cell Therapy Series: Healing Knees
Am I a candidate for stem cells for knee pain?
The most viable candidates for stem cells to relieve knee pain are those who haven’t been responding to other forms of treatment, those who want to avoid the recommended treatment for their condition — such as surgery — and patients for whom nothing has been effective. SVF stem cell therapy is minimally invasive, which gives patients an alternative to painful surgery and the lengthy recovery process.
Good Candidates for Stem Cells
- Persons who are medically stable enough to have minor surgery under local anesthesia performed — in some cases of chronically ill patients, we may request a surgical clearance from your doctor
- Persons not taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) or who can stop them for two to four days around the procedure
- Persons seeking to avoid joint replacement surgery — such as partial or total knee replacement surgery
- Persons who have inadequate treatment or unwanted side effects on their knee medications
- Persons seeking to maintain joint health and avoid future problems with their knees
Cost of Stem Cell Treatments
The cost of the initial stem cell treatment ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. The cost is dependent on the complexity of delivering the cells back to you. For many people, the initial treatment is all that is needed. But, for some conditions, subsequent treatments may be required — and these are done at a reduced fee.
Stem Cell Results for Knee Pain
Patients who undergo SVF stem cell therapy for knee pain report a reduction in their painful symptoms and an increase in range of motion and mobility. Stem cell therapy helps to reduce joint inflammation quickly, and many patients see improvements in just one to two days. Anti-inflammatory results of the procedure can last two to three months, with many patients seeing a gradual improvement in their overall condition. Stem cell therapy for knee pain is performed at both of our Dallas and Fort Worth practice locations.
Frequently Asked Questions
All stem cells — adult stem cells or otherwise — share two important characteristics: they have the ability to multiply, and they can become any type of cells. This means that they can — in theory — multiply infinitely into any cells from skin and muscles to bone.
Stem cells that are obtained from mature adult tissues are referred to as adult stem cells. The potential exists for adult stem cells to become any type of cell. Some adult stem cells also have widespread availability. We harvest them from adult tissues — such as from bone marrow or fat.
Fat adult stem cells are also known as adipose-derived adult stem cells. Adult stem cells from fat are easier to obtain and exist in larger numbers than bone marrow adult stem cells. They’re also safer to harvest.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has NOT approved the use of adult stem cells/SVF for any disorder. That being said, we do have enough experience to talk about early trends in therapy. For patients with osteoarthritis and other chronic conditions, stem cell therapy has produced an 83% satisfaction rating for those with knee pain.
A satisfied patient can be considered a patient that is happy that they had the procedure. The satisfied patient would make the decision to do it again after having undergone the procedure. In another group of 34 patients who had been recommended to have a knee replacement, a similar 85% patient satisfaction was seen. Out of this group, only one had gone on to have a knee replacement at 18 months.
Harvesting adult stem cells from fat is extremely safe. The procedure has little discomfort, and patients recover fairly easily. When preparing for the procedure, an area such as the stomach or leg is picked to remove the fat. You’ll then be taken to the procedure room, and the area will be sterilized. A local anesthetic is then injected into the area. Fat is suctioned using a special syringe and cannula. Typically, we suction about 50 ml — about 1 1.2 oz. — of fat.
Swelling and bruising at the harvest site is common following the procedure. This side effect typically resolves within two to three weeks after the procedure. Most patients receive a prescription for pain medications to use as needed. You’ll also be given a dose of antibiotics before the procedure, but none are needed to be taken afterward.
The harvested cells are used in a centrifuge and incubator to do some simple processing. The processing isolates the adult stem cells from the other fat cells. The final product is called Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF). SVF obtained from fat can contain up to about 25 million adult stem cells from 50 ml of fat. SVF also contains a large number of growth factors. Growth factors are chemical text messages our cells use to communicate with each other. After we have obtained the SVF, the next step is to deploy it.
For knee joints, injection involves using ultrasound or other imaging tools to help ensure that the adult stem cells/SVF is deployed directly into the joint. A portion of the adult stem cells/SVF is given intravenously (IV). This allows the benefit to other less involved joints and soft tissues and can provide an anti-inflammatory effect.
In arthritis and other knee conditions with a strong inflammatory component, the response tends to be quick. Improvement in one or two days is common. We believe this is due to the strong anti-inflammatory effect of the growth factors associated with adult stem cells/SVF. This anti-inflammatory effect lasts two to three months. From there, you can expect continued, gradual improvement as the adult stem cells help provide healing to the joint.
It is too early to say conclusively that adult stem cell treatment promotes the growth of new cartilage. But, some early evidence is pointing in that direction. Typically it is best to wait three to six months before considering repeat deployment. Most of the time, repeat deployment is done because some improvement has been seen, and more are sought. Occasionally, repeat deployment is done because the patient has lost some benefit previously gained. How often and how many repeated procedures can be done is still to be determined.