Stem Cell Injections for Knee Injuries
Soft tissue injuries including ligament and tendons represent up to 45% of all musculoskeletal injuries. Sports and overuse injuries may require surgery and lengthy recovery. Chronic and degenerative musculoskeletal conditions are difficult to treat effectively, and treatment and recovery can compromise quality of life for long periods.
Management of knee pain involves conservative measures like over-the-counter pain medicine, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroid injections and physical therapy. When this fails, surgery is the best option. But even surgery may not provide effective relief partly due to the low quality of tendon healing.
Generally, knee injuries tend to heal slowly and often require lengthy rehabilitation to achieve pain-free function. Stem cell therapy is a promising option to accelerate healing, regenerate tissues and provide long lasting pain relief. It is an important option to aid in the repair of soft tissue damage in the knee. Stem cell therapy may reduce the need for extensive physical therapy and rehabilitation, usually needed after surgery or an injury.
What are stem cell injections?
Stem cell injections are a regenerative treatment that employs stem cells taken from a patient, treated and transplanted back into the patient, to help repair or replace damaged or diseased tissues.
Stem cells are special cells that have the ability to develop into different types of cells. They can divide to form new cells such as muscle cells, nerve and blood vessel cells, new cartilage cells, and decrease inflammation. This makes them useful for repairing and regenerating damaged tissues.
In the case of knee injuries, stem cell treatment may be used to repair damaged cartilage, tendons or ligaments, or to stimulate the growth of new bone tissue which can lead to improved joint function and reduced pain.
What is the stem cell procedure?
The stem cell procedure involves the following steps:
- Harvesting adult stem cells: A small amount of bone marrow is aspirated from the patient’s hip in a minor and minimally invasive procedure.
- Processing stem cells: The harvested stem cells are processed in a lab to isolate and concentrate them and remove any impurities.
- Injecting stem cells: The concentrated stem cells are injected into the damaged knee tissues, either directly or via a minimally invasive procedure. The stem cells begin to differentiate into the type of cells needed to repair or regenerate the damaged tissue.
- Common side effects: Common side effects are temporary swelling and pain.
- Recovery: Most patients experience minor or no discomfort and can return to normal daily life within a few days.
What types of knee injuries can be treated with stem cell therapy?
Stem cell injections aid in the repair of damaged tissues, reduce inflammation and relieve pain important in healing knee injuries and treating knee conditions.
- Knee Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a common, chronic, debilitating degenerative joint disorder. Treatment is designed to improve symptoms and function and may slow progression of the degenerative process. Stem cell therapy may be employed to regenerate the damaged cartilage in the joint and reduce inflammation, and ultimately restore a healthy joint. It may also be beneficial to regenerate cartilage damaged due to injury.
- Tendon Injuries: Tendons around the knee, such as the patellar tendon, can be injured, leading to conditions like tendinopathies. Stem cells might help in healing and strengthening the damaged tendon tissue. Studies report that Stem Cell injections may be used to aid in the healing of tendon injuries.
- Ligament Injuries: Injuries to ligaments like the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are common, especially in athletes. Stem cells may aid in the healing process of these ligaments. Stem cell therapy is beneficial to augment tendon/ligament repair surgery such as for the ACL. It may also be beneficial for patients with partial-thickness tears who did not respond to conservative medication or physical therapy for more than 3-6 months.
- Meniscus Tears: The meniscus is a piece of cartilage that provides a cushion between your femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). Tears in the meniscus can be painful and debilitating. Stem cell therapy may help in healing meniscal tears, especially in the early stages.
- Bursitis: Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae (small fluid-filled sacs) around the knee joint. Stem cell therapy can be used to reduce inflammation and promote the healing.
- Chondromalacia Patellae (Runner’s Knee): This condition involves the softening and breakdown of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella). Stem cell therapy could potentially help in regenerating the damaged cartilage.
How long does it take to see improvements?
The timeline for seeing full improvements after stem cell therapy for knee injuries can vary depending on several factors, such as the severity of the injury, and the individual patient’s response to the treatment. It is also important to note that the full benefits of stem cell therapy may not be seen for several months after the procedure.
In general, some patients may start to see improvements within a few weeks to a few months after the procedure. For example, patients with knee osteoarthritis may experience a reduction in pain and improved mobility within the first few months after stem cell therapy. However, it may take several months for the stem cells to fully integrate into the damaged tissue and promote the growth of new tissue.
When you or a loved one is suffering with a knee injury, you have options. Contact the team at LALL Orthopedics + to schedule a consultation to receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options. We have office in Belvidere, Illinois, Paramus, New Jersey and Philadelphia, PA.
- Akpancar S, Tatar O, Turgut H, Akyildiz F, Ekinci S. The Current Perspectives of Stem Cell Therapy in Orthopedic Surgery. Arch Trauma Res. 2016 Aug 16;5(4):e37976. doi: 10.5812/atr.37976. PMID: 28144608; PMCID: PMC5253188.
- Mirghaderi SP, Valizadeh Z, Shadman K, Lafosse T, Oryadi-Zanjani L, Yekaninejad MS, Nabian MH. Cell therapy efficacy and safety in treating tendon disorders: a systemic review of clinical studies. J Exp Orthop. 2022 Aug 30;9(1):85. doi: 10.1186/s40634-022-00520-9. PMID: 36042110; PMCID: PMC9428081.
- Jang S, Lee K, Ju JH. Recent Updates of Diagnosis, Pathophysiology, and Treatment on Osteoarthritis of the Knee. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Mar 5;22(5):2619. doi: 10.3390/ijms22052619. PMID: 33807695; PMCID: PMC7961389.
- Zou J, Yang W, Cui W, Li C, Ma C, Ji X, Hong J, Qu Z, Chen J, Liu A, Wu H. Therapeutic potential and mechanisms of mesenchymal stem cell-derived exosomes as bioactive materials in tendon-bone healing. J Nanobiotechnology. 2023 Jan 16;21(1):14. doi: 10.1186/s12951-023-01778-6. PMID: 36642728; PMCID: PMC9841717.
- Zheng, W., Li, H., Hu, K. et al. Chondromalacia patellae: current options and emerging cell therapies. Stem Cell Res Ther 12, 412 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13287-021-02478-4
At a Glance
Ajay C. Lall, MD, MS, FAAOS
- Board Certified – Orthopedic Surgery
- Triple Fellowship Trained
- Performs over 750 Surgeries Per Year
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