FAQ’s on Stem Cell Injections in Las Vegas

Painful discs of the neck and lower back contribute to disability and suffering. In the United States, more than 900,000 back surgeries are performed each year, including 500,000 spinal fusions and 400,000 lumbar discectomies. Stem cell injections are an option for patients who wish to avoid surgery.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are found in many types of adult body tissue. MSCs boost the body’s natural healing process, and allow for regeneration of injured and damaged body structures. While stem cells can be taken from embryos, those used for stem cell injections come from the patient’s own bone marrow.

What is the purpose of stem cell injections?

Lower back pain is associated with degenerative disc disease. This condition is now treatable with stem cell injections. Degenerative disc disease occurs with the intervertebral discs age and lose height, structural integrity, and flexibility. Low back pain affects approximately 25% of adults in America, and many of these people have degenerative disc disease. Stem cell injections treat muscle, tendon, and ligament tears, degenerative joint disease, rotator cuff injuries, and arthritis.

Who is a candidate for stem cell injection treatment?

Before scheduling a stem cell injection treatment, the pain management specialist will ask you to come in for a consultation. The doctor will discuss the pros and cons of the injection. Patients who will benefit from this treatment include those with minor tears rather than complete tears, and people with mild degenerative joint or disc disease.

What happens before the stem cell injection procedure?

A mild sedative is used during the procedure, so you should arrange to have someone drive you home. In addition, do not eat or drink six hours before the injection. Notify the doctor of all medications you are taking, as blood-thinning agents must be held for several days before the scheduled injection. Once you get to the medical center, a nurse has you change into a gown and starts an IV catheter in your arm.

How is the stem cell injection performed?

The doctor will first obtain the stem cells from the iliac bone, which is the back of the hip. The skin is cleaned using an antimicrobial solution, and a small needle is used to numb the area. The procedure needle is inserted into the bone to aspirate the marrow. The marrow is sent to the laboratory to be processed. The doctor then injects the stem cells into the damaged or injured body structure (joint, shoulder, or back).

Are stem cell injections effective?

The efficacy rate for stem cell injection is around 80-90%, according to recent clinical studies. In a recent study, stem cells were used to treat knee arthritis, and patients reported improved range of motion and decreased pain scores. For rotator cuff injury, the procedure has a 70% success rate, based on a 2014 research report.

What risks and complications are associated with stem cell injection therapy?

The procedure is safe, and usually effective, but there are some risks to consider. These include infection, bleeding, prolonged pain at the injection site, nerve damage, and blood vessel injury. There is a slight risk of allergic reaction to sedatives, latex, and antiseptics used during the procedure.

Can stem cell injections help with recovery after surgery?

Some doctors use stem cell injections to help improve bone healing and structure regeneration after surgery. If you are planning surgery, be sure to discuss this option with the doctor. At the present time, many insurances do not cover stem cell injections.

Resources

Drazin D, Rosner J, Avalos, P, & Acosta F (2012). Stem cell therapy for degenerative disc disease. Regenerative Medicine, doi:  10.1155/2012/961052

Koh et al. (2013). Mesenchymal stem cell injections improve symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.  Arthroscopy. 29(4): 748-755.

Pettine KA, Murphy MB, Suzuki RK, et al. (2014). Percutaneous injection of autologous bone marrow concentrate cells significantly reduces lumbar discogenic pain through 12 months. Stem Cells.

Vangsness CT, et al. (2014). Adult human mesenchymal stem cells delivered via intra-articular injection to the knee following partial medial meniscectomy: a randomized, double-blind, controlled study. J Bone Joint Surg Am, 96(2):90-8.