Stem cells are the next frontier in the treatment of orthopaedic and spinal disorders, and the Cary Orthopaedics team is leading the way.
Using stem cells harvested from an adult patient’s own bone marrow, Dr. Sameer Mathur and Dr. Nael Shanti – both board-certified orthopaedic spinal surgeons – have developed a minimally invasive remedy for those suffering from degenerative disc disease, back pain and spinal arthritis. Applying a similar approach, Cary Ortho’s Dr. Douglas Martini – a fellowship-trained, board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine – has crafted a pain-relief solution for patients living with osteoarthritis and soft tissue injuries.
Multiple research studies have shown a significant reduction in low back and joint pain and improved function after stem cell injections. While these treatments are new, 80% to 90% of patients are already reporting improvement in their symptoms after orthopaedic stem cell treatments.
Conventional treatment for bone and joint degeneration
Many patients suffering from degenerative disc diseases or low back pain are often not ideal candidates for surgery, and some who have chosen to undergo surgery have had unsatisfactory results. Therefore, the typical remedy for chronic orthopaedic conditions is extensive physical therapy combined with oral anti-inflammatory medications. The result: The majority of patients still had to live with pain.
Spine and orthopaedic stem cell treatment
Physicians at Cary Orthopaedics are utilizing orthopaedic stem cell treatment using the patient’s own bone marrow, the soft, spongy tissue found in the center of bones. Bone marrow in adults contains a rich reservoir of “multipotent” stem cells – also known as Mesenchymal Precursor Cells (MPCs) – that can be extracted from the patient’s pelvis or hip bone. Due to their unique, regenerative composition, these cells can become various types of tissues including soft tissue, bone or cartilage, which make them an excellent resource for repairing and rebuilding damaged tissue, accelerating the healing process and improving overall function.
Thanks to advancements in technology, the removal and harvesting process has become easier and less expensive. Since this is a minimally invasive procedure, it has fewer side effects compared to traditional surgery, and it causes minimal discomfort to the patient.
Bone marrow stem cells for osteoarthritis and joint pain relief
Bone marrow injections are a breakthrough for patients in pain. Dr. Martini, a sports medicine physician at Cary Orthopaedics, has been active in the sports medicine community, previously serving as team physician for the Carolina Hurricanes, numerous colleges, and local high schools. After 25 years of experience in sports medicine, he realizes the need for improved treatment options for the “greying athlete.” He has begun incorporating bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BAC) into the treatment of both acute and chronic soft tissue and joint-related injuries. “I believe this will be equally helpful to the patient who needs to exercise for overall health benefits as it would be for those who need to stay at their peak athletic performance,” says Dr. Martini.
“We have found based on our research and experience that stem cell therapy can be very safe and effective when used with the appropriate patient population,” said Kevin G. Morrison, PA-C, a member of Dr. Martini’s team. “All the feedback to this point has been quite positive, both on the process of having the procedure done as well as the early response. But ultimately long-term data will need to be compiled and critically examined.”
Much of the previous research into stem cells has centered around placental stem cells, which can also adapt into other types of tissues. However, these have not performed well when put to the test for orthopaedic treatment. Bone marrow aspirate concentrate provides MPCs that can transform into osteocytes, chondrocytes and adipocytes, all of which are important in treating orthopedic conditions.
The latest research around mesenchymal stem cells, specifically bone marrow aspiration, is certainly promising. Dr. Martini will continue to collect more data and review patients’ responses.
Bone marrow stem cells for degenerative disc disease and low back pain
Dr. Mathur has been an instrumental force in elevating the level of patient care at Cary Orthopaedic Spine Center since joining the practice in 2008. Dr. Mathur completed his medical school at the University of Pennsylvania and spinal reconstructive fellowship at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He also taught at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Over the last 10 years, in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health, he has conducted significant study of disc degeneration and analysis of the expression of genes that may damage the disc.
“In the past decade, there have been several advancements in spinal surgery, but regenerative medicine is the next frontier,” said Dr. Mathur. “I see so many patients that have low back pain and leg pain from degenerative disc disease. For many, there is no good surgical treatment, and stem cell injections may be a viable option.”
As an orthopaedic spine specialist, Dr. Mathur is not only an expert in spinal surgery but also in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of spinal problems. His depth of experience allows him to best determine whether a patient would benefit from physical therapy, stem cell injections or surgical intervention. When providing stem cell treatment, Dr. Mathur performs a single injection for all patients, whereas other clinics typically require multiple injections over several weeks.
“There is currently extensive, ongoing research on the application of stem cell therapy and tissue regeneration, including an application for spinal cord injury and disc pathology, which is very exciting,” said Dr. Shanti, who has dedicated a great deal of time researching the potential impact stem cell therapy can provide for his patients. Dr. Shanti believes stem cell therapy is the next great advancement in healthcare with an application for a wide spectrum of medical conditions.
Recently recognized as Top Orthopaedic Doctor by The Leading Physicians of the World for the outstanding patient care, Dr. Shanti’s in-depth experience and understanding of the spine allows him to guide his patients – especially those with chronic back pain – to the most appropriate path of treatment with the shared collaborative goal of pain relief. Dr. Shanti completed his spine surgery fellowship training at the prestigious New England Baptist Hospital, Tufts University program with an emphasis on minimally invasive spine surgery, and he has authored and presented multiple papers and textbooks on the advancement of minimally invasive spine surgery.
Orthopaedic stem cell treatment is an excellent solution for patients with degenerative disc disease and also those suffering from arthritis of the spine, bulging disc, low back pain, facet joint pain or disc with annular tears.
How the stem cell procedure works
The stem cell injection is a same-day procedure that generally takes one hour to perform. The actual extraction of bone marrow takes up to 10 minutes. The bone marrow extraction site – typically the back of the patient’s hip or pelvis bone – is numbed using a mixture of local anesthetics. A suctioned syringe is attached to a long needle that reaches the posterior aspect of the hip. The patient may experience a minimal amount of discomfort during the extraction.
The sample is collected, transferred through a filter, and then placed into a centrifuge for spinning. The speed separates the stem cells and platelets from the bone marrow. This concentration of stem cells is then reintroduced into the degenerative or painful area under image guidance with fluoroscopy to confirm accurate placement.
The harvesting site will be numb for 1 to 2 hours after the procedure, so the patient will need to have transportation home. It is permissible to fly after the treatment, but this may cause increased pain or discomfort.
Stem cell therapy relies on the body’s own regenerative process to heal, which takes time. Patients have seen the benefits in two to three months after treatment; however, many have noticed improvements in symptoms sooner.
The recommended age range for the treatment is 20 to 70 years old. As the body ages, the quality and quantity of stem cells slowly decline. After age 70, patients may experience a sharper decline in stem cells, resulting in less beneficial outcomes.
Request a consultation for orthopaedic stem cell therapy
If you think you might be a candidate for orthopaedic stem cell therapy treatment, contact Cary Orthopaedics to schedule a consultation.