Advances in medical research are enabling physicians to find new and innovative ways to use the body’s own systems to fight disease and injury.

This is commonly referred to as cell-based therapy. In the treatment of cancer, immunotherapy involves modifying a patient’s own cells (or cells from a donor) to fight the disease. In the field of orthopedics, regenerative medicine specialists can use the patient’s own blood plasma, bone marrow cells to help the body boost its own natural healing properties. These products are known as orthobiologics.

It is important to note that at the present time, orthobiologics must be autologous—which means the blood or cells used must come from the patient. Donor products are not allowed, per FDA guidelines. The good news is that autologous orthobiologics have proven to be safe and powerful healers that can treat everything from osteoarthritis to tendon injuries such as tennis or golf elbow without surgery or hospitalization.

Cell-based Treatments for Orthopedic Conditions

There is one main source of cell-based therapies that can be used to treat orthopedic conditions:

  • Bone Marrow Aspiration Concentrate: Bone marrow-derived cells are collected from the back of the pelvic bone. The marrow contains a rich reservoir of “pluripotent” stem cells that, unlike other cells of the body, are “undifferentiated.” This means they can replicate into a disc, tendon, bone, adipose or cartilage cells. This makes them especially effective for promoting tissue healing, controlling inflammation and fighting infection.

Why Consider Cell-Based Therapies?

Unlike major surgery to treat orthopedic conditions, bone marrow aspirate concentrate is performed on an out-patient basis. There are no incisions, no hospitalizations or lengthy rehabilitation stays. The risk of infection and bleeding is minimal, and because FDA-compliant treatments are autologous, there is no risk of rejection or allergic reaction to the cells.

Patients considering cell-based therapies should do their homework, since there are several important factors that can impact the effectiveness of these treatments. These include:

  • Cellular product preparation: When the patient’s bone marrow is removed, it must be processed and concentrated in special centrifuges. The best outcomes require highly specialized equipment that enables the regenerative medicine specialist to create a formulation targeted to the specific orthopedic injury being treated.
  • Delivery: To ensure the healing cellular products are delivered to the exact spot of injury or damage, the treatment should be delivered with X-ray guidance.
  • Experience: The field of regenerative medicine is changing daily and there are a limited number of specialists around the country who have the experience and technology to perform cell-based orthopedic treatments safely and effectively.  The physician performing your procedure must be experienced in both the preparation of the product and proficient at utilizing X-ray guidance to deliver the product to the correct anatomical location.

As the sub-specialty of orthopedic regenerative medicine continues to grow, there is a corresponding body of clinical research that demonstrates its effectiveness. A recent comprehensive report based on actual clinical data collected from 65 physicians at 43 clinics in 25 states revealed that 61 (sixty-one) percent of the patients treated with bone marrow aspirate reported a meaningful reduction in pain within 12 months following treatment. 

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