Stem cell therapy

What is it?

Stem cells have the ability to divide and form various tissue cells such as cartilage and bone. Stem cells can be found at various locations in the body including bone marrow, fat tissue and circulating blood.

The aim of this type of therapy is to preserve the natural joint and to potentially delay the need for joint replacement surgery. In trying to preserve joints, stem cells can be used to encourage regeneration of the surface layer of damaged cartilage in the treatment of early arthritis of the hip and knee.

Unfortunately, biological therapies are not an established treatment when advanced arthritis is present. Once there is full thickness loss of cartilage in the joint, the results of biological therapies are not predictable and it may be better to consider more established treatments such as hip or knee joint replacement surgery.

Treatment and Procedure

Your consultant can discuss whether you are suitable for stem cell therapy during your consultation, based on your history, examination findings and investigations including X-rays and MRI scanning.

To harvest stem cells, the procedure is carried out in the operating theatre. During the procedure, your surgeon will take a sample of blood and bone marrow. Bone marrow sampling involves the use of a specialist needle to aspirate cells from a prominent bone over the hip area or from the lower leg. At the same time, your surgeon will perform arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) of the hip to gain direct access to the hip joint surfaces. The harvested stem cells are then injected directly into the joint during the arthroscopy procedure.

The majority of biologics treatments can be carried out in the clinic setting, as an out-patient but if the treatment is carried out as part of an arthroscopy procedure, patients are treated in a day case setting or may occasionally have an overnight stay. Post procedural advice relating to arthroscopy procedures will apply in terms of recovery times. Please see hip and knee arthroscopy details for further information.

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