If you’re dealing with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, you’re not alone. Actually, you’re simply one of the millions of people in the U.S. who are dealing with that condition, with over 600,000 people undergoing total knee replacement surgery annually.
And no wonder, with the OA leading the cartilage covering the ends of your bones to start wearing away, you’ll be facing a lot of pain, swelling, and stiffness, as the cushioning material that keeps your joints happy deteriorates. When it’s a mild condition, many people can manage their symptoms by integrating some medical treatments with lifestyle modifications.
On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a severe case, then you’ve probably heard that knee replacement surgery is in your future. But, with all of the new medical advancements, you can be a good candidate for stem cell therapy for your knees.
If the idea of stem cell research sound completely foreign to you, no worries. You’ve come to the right place. Keep on reading for our full breakdown of stem cell therapy for knees
What Is Stem Cell Treatment?
Let’s start with the basics.
Stem cell treatment, also known as stem cell therapy or orthobiologic treatment is a specialized medical process that aims to treat orthopedic conditions, by using stem cells to encourage cell growth to reduce the pain symptoms associated with these conditions.
In the simplest of terms, most cells have a single role in the human body. For instance, a skin cell can’t be expected to do the same roles as a red blood cell.
On the other hand, stem cells have the capability to divide (and grow) into any other type of cell in the body, like heart muscle cells, or even a lung cell. This opens the door to a host of possibilities regarding the different jobs these cells can be ordered to do.
Scientists have been able to coax some patients’ cells to rebuild damaged tissue via stem cells in laboratory conditions. Admittedly, the success has been limited in nature.
However, the research is an ongoing process, and we still don’t know everything there is to know about stem cells, and how we can purposely manipulate them to work for different purposes across the human body.
Moreover, scientists haven’t been able to nail down whether stem cell treatments, like biolab sciences fluid flow, can help patients regrow their bone density or their lost cartilage. Yet, these treatments have been effective in helping patients find pain relief.
Stem Cell Therapy for Knees 101: Eliminating Knee Pain
After having a basic understanding of what stem cells are all about, we’ll explore the process of stem cell therapy when it comes to knee treatments specifically.
Before we delve into the details, let’s clear up some myths and controversies that surround stem cell research. If you’ve heard about the kinds of stem cells that are extracted from donated blastocysts, which are early-stage embryos, being used for orthobiologic treatments, that’s completely false.
While these stem cells are can be used for other treatments, the stem cells specifically used for orthobiologic therapy are taken from the adult patients themselves. Stem cell samples are extracted from bone marrow and other tissues.
How Stem Cell Treatment Works
Once the treatment starts, the doctor will be taking samples of stem cells from the appropriate parts of your body.
Then, it’ll be injected into the injured area. When it comes to knee pain, the stem cells will be extracted from fat tissue or bone marrow and implanted into your knee joints.
Of course, everything will be done with your complete knowledge and consent. Thus, your doctor will discuss the source of your stem cells with you before starting the treatment process.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Stem Cell Therapy
Understanding that orthobiologic treatment and stem cell therapy (as a whole) is still taking their first steps into the well-established medical fields. Consequently, there’s still a lot that we are learning about their key benefits, drawbacks, and appropriate uses.
That’s why we’re not quite sure whether it can work for complete cartilage regeneration, or even healing spinal cord injuries. Yet, the majority of patients who underwent orthobiologic treatments have reported positive results, specifically when it comes to pain management, even with no detected reversion of cartilage or bone loss.
Some of the reported benefits are:
- Reduced joint stiffness
- Higher degrees of mobility
- Reduction in osteoarthritis pain or past injuries
- Reduction in pain medication use
With quick recovery times, you’d assume that every single OA patient will flock towards stem cell treatment, as it has little to no adverse side effects. Yet, there’s no perfect treatment available on the market. Even orthobiologic treatments do have some drawbacks like:
- Dealing with pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site
- Might turn out to be ineffective for some patients
- Risk of bacterial infection
That’s why before starting your treatment, your doctor will discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages of the treatment before you receive your first injection. After all, depending on your medical case, you might have some risk factors that would prevent you from undergoing the treatment in the first place.
What Makes a Good or Bad Candidate for Stem Cell Therapy?
Well, the glaring unsuitability that would render stem cell therapy ineffective for a patient would be if they have no remaining range of motion left.
For example, if your knee can’t bend at all, or it’s fused, or stuck in a specific bent out or bent in position, then you might be ineligible for stem cell treatment.
On the other hand, if you still have some range of motion, or you can walk with the help of a cane or an aid of some sort, as well as being able to get yourself out of a chair, then you’re definitely eligible for a consultation.
Your doctor will be able to assess you and tell you whether this treatment will have a high chance of success for your case or not.
Dealing With Knee Problems: Unlocking Stem Cell Therapy
We know that learning about stem cell therapy for knees for the very first time can be a bit overwhelming.
Hopefully, our guide into the intricacies of the process, how it works, as well as its key benefits and drawbacks have given you the right amount of information to start your research in earnest.
Remember that you’ll want to have a medical professional assess your suitability for the treatment before you start.