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Your Questions Answered!

How does the Stem Cell Injection Procedure work here at Stem Cell Carolina?

A: Stem Cell Carolina patients can benefit from injections of their own stem cells to treat chronic degenerative joint conditions. Regenerative medicine/Stem Cell treatments can reduce pain and provide long lasting relief from chronic tendinitis, arthritis and cartilage damage in the joint. It uses your own body’s repair mechanisms and natural growth factors to promote healing.  These injections are proving to re-grow damaged degenerative joints and are being used by star athletes across the country and a growing number of patients wanting to avoid the many negative aspects of steroid injections and the complications of joint replacement surgeries.  Many patients that want regenerative therapies have developed physical limitations that are holding them back from enjoying the activities in life they really enjoy.  (This is exactly how Dr. Schmitt was introduced to Stem Cell Therapy and how this component of our office was created!)

Why have Stem Cell Procedures performed here in Charlotte at Stem Cell Carolina?

A: Here at Stem Cell Carolina, we are utilizing the very best in Stem Cell harvesting technology with – Harvest.  Harvest’s “parent company”, Terumo is “the Johnson and Johnson of Japan” and widely known as the leader in Regenerative Medicine biologics.  That’s why Duke, Wake Forest, UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, Emory, and Campbell University sports medicine programs use Harvest.  You can have the same decision making, the same protocols and results without having to travel to these far away destinations.

Why do I have chronic pain in my joints and tendons?

A: As we age, our bodies undergo wear and tear from previous injuries, exercising and playing sports. Sometimes, genetically we are more likely to develop degenerative joints faster than we think we should.  We do not repair these injuries as well as we do when we are young. We produce less of our ‘repair’ cells (called mesenchymal stem cells) as we get older so it takes longer to recover. In some cases, the joint damage is so significant that the body cannot repair itself at all.

What are the benefits of Stem Cell injections?

A: Stem Cell injections provide a non-surgical treatment option to reduce pain while still providing long lasting relief from chronic tendinitis, ligament and joint problems. Stem Cell injections are often performed under ultrasound guidance if needed to ensure proper placement of the stem cells.

Will the stem cell injection regenerate cartilage in my joint?

A: There is some limited data suggesting an ability to regenerate a portion of the cartilage that may be worn down in the patient’s joint.  Whether or not the cartilage regenerates has little correlation with relief of pain. In cases of more advanced arthritis, we are less likely to see any cartilage regeneration, however symptom improvement is highly probable.

My doctor said Stem Cell injections don’t work

Some of our first Stem Cell patients at Stem Cell Carolina were local Charlotte medical physicians.  With over 20 years in practice, we can say that there are some physicians who stay up on the latest medical breakthroughs to benefit their patients, and those that do not.  There are physicians who only refer “within their hospital based system” and those who will advise you on what’s best for you regardless of where “your medical dollars” will be spent.  If Stem Cell Therapy wasn’t beneficial – Would the major university medical systems be doing it? (No.)

  • Think about that for a moment.
Who is a candidate for this treatment?

A: In general, these treatments are advised for patients who have pain secondary to moderate osteoarthritis in the hip, knee, shoulder where there is not complete collapse of the joint space and not “bone on bone” changes. We also do stem cells occasionally for soft tissue injuries such as tears or severe tendinosis, bursitis.

Who is not a candidate for these type of treatments?

A:

Patients with a blood borne cancer (such as lymphoma or leukemia), not in remission for at least 5 years.

Patients undergoing treatment for other malignancies or blood borne diseases.

Patients with an active infection.

Patients who are on a high dose of Coumadin or other blood thinner.

Patients with multiple medical issues may not be good candidates (low testosterone, low vitamin D, Hypothyroidism, Diabetes, smoker).

**This a partial list; there may be other conditions that limit your stem cell candidacy.

Which joints or body parts can stem cells or fat tissue is injected?

A: Most commonly injections are for larger joints, such as hips and knees, but we also treat shoulders. Stem cell treatments are also an option for chronic tendon issues that have been resistant to platelet rich plasma (PRP) and other treatments. These are typically done in the rotator cuff, lateral elbow and Achilles tendons.

What Is Adipose Tissue?

A: Adipose tissue, or fat, is an anatomical term for loose connective tissue composed of fat cells (adipocytes). Its main role is to store energy in the form of fat; it also cushions and insulates your body.

Adipose tissue provides a 3-D scaffold rich in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). MSCs are stem cells found throughout the body at all stages of development and are believed to be responsible for growth, wound healing and replacing cells that are lost through the daily wear and tear because this material must be absorbed back into the body.

Adipose tissue is the body’s richest source of MSCs and provides two distinct advantages over other sources of stem cells:

Adipose-derived MSCs can be easily harvested by liposuction under local anesthesia.

It is possible to acquire a large number of cells from any type of fat tissue in the body.

What Is a Fat-Grafting Procedure?

A: A fat-grafting procedure, or autologous (obtained from your own body) fat transplant, transfers tissue from areas in which you have excess fat—such as the thighs or belly—and injects it into areas that may be lacking in volume or in need of repair.

The quality of adipose graft material is an important consideration prior to any fat-graft procedure. One of the drawbacks of traditional fat-grafting procedures is the loss of graft volume post-transplant. The presence of excess fluid, oils and lipids contributes to graft volume loss, because this fluid must be resorbed by the body. Studies indicate that highly refined graft material may result in improved clinical outcomes which our Harvest system is patented for.

What is the success rate of these types of therapies?

A: Our experience is that most patients will have significant relief of pain around 1-2 months after the procedure.  Many patients report improvements within days.

Patients typically improve for up to 6 months following the procedure. There are patients who will not see any improvement from a stem cell procedure even though we have a screening process that helps identify patients that are good candidates. Overall, 75-80% of our patients have had significant pain relief and improved function of the joint following the procedure(s). There have not been many studies of the long term outcomes of stem cell procedures reported in the literature although the safety of these procedures has been tracked for many years with few (barely any) complications reported.

Does the treatment consist of one injection or multiple injections?

A: Typically, the stem cell procedure is only done one time and does not need to be repeated. There are times when a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection will be done 1-3 months after the stem cell injection is performed. Our protocol is continually evolving, so this is ultimately decided on a case-by-case basis.

Can I drive home that day?

A: Patients should be aware there is a possibility they may have increased pain/discomfort after the procedure. Patients driving home should have a driver to take them home following the procedure.

What are the risks?

A: Stem cell therapy uses your own stem cells. Since the cells come from your own body, there is no chance of your body rejecting it – it is just boosting your own ability to heal. There is a small risk of infection as is standard with any injection procedure. You can expect the stem cell harvesting site where our providers collected the stem cells to be sore for a few days after the procedure.

What is the cost?

A: The cost can vary, but is usually around $3,000 – $4,000 to inject one body area and a reduced rate for two to three different areas. The final cost of the treatment(s) will ultimately be determined by what particular injections are being done.

Stem cell therapy and adipose (fat) grafts are not covered by your insurance company. If you decide you want to explore either of these treatment options, you can first speak with one of our financial counselors about payment options.

How to prepare for a Stem Cell injection.

A:

  • Seven days before your injection, do not take any anti-inflammatory medicine. Do not take medication such as: Steroids, Aspirin, Motrin, Advil, Aleve and Naprosyn.
  • Tell our providers if you are on any blood thinning medications.
  • Drink lots of water the day of your injection procedure.

What to expect during the procedure:

Step 1: Our providers will apply a numbing medicine to your hip or stomach area depending on where the stem cells will be harvested from.

Step 2: We then use a needle to collect 1-2 ounces (30-60cc) of adipose tissue.

Step 3: We separate the stem cells with a special proprietary centrifuge machine to give us a concentrated sample to inject into the damaged area.  The centrifuge machine we use provides the greatest concentration of stem cells available on the market today!

Step 4: The concentrated Stem Cells are injected with the harvested growth factors into the injured area.

  • Only your own stem cells and blood is used during this procedure.

After your procedure:

  • You may be sore at the Stem Cell harvesting site for a few days.
  • Do not take any anti-inflammatory medicine for at least two weeks after the procedure.
  • For pain, take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or medicine prescribed by your doctor.
  • After one week, you may resume exercise therapy – this is patient specific.
  • Your doctor may ask you to remain non weight bearing for a short period of time depending on the area we are treating.
  • Call our office immediately if you experience unbearable pain, bleeding, or signs of infection, such as streaking, fever or chills. (This is not anticipated nor expected.)

Questions?