Stem Cells for Treating Joint Problems in the Elderly: Does Age Matter?
The proposition is simple enough: Relocate your body’s own cells to treat painful areas of joint degeneration. Patients in line for joint surgery are turning to the internet to research alternative treatments, and Regenerative Medicine seems to be the number one non-surgical alternative. But how effective is it?
A recent study (published December 2013), looked at the clinical outcomes of 30 elderly patients who were all suffering with osteoarthritis of the knee. The study was carried out by 5 South Korean medical researchers, including Doctors and internationally published Orthopaedic Surgeons Koh Yong-Gon and Kwon Sae-Krang.
Each patient received intra-articular (within the joint) stem cell injections which were sourced from their own adipose (fat) cells. In this study of older patients, a small amount of fluid was flushed through the knee space to remove the decades of debris before each treatment. This process is referred to as an ‘arthroscopic lavage’.
As every patient was aged 65 years or older, the researchers were interested in assessing the effectiveness of the treatment in older individuals and if the results would last for at least two years after each patient’s stem cell treatment.
As part of the study, researchers assessed the patients for numerous outcomes including pain, joint function and overall quality of life. These tests were carried out every 3, 12 and 24 months following the treatment. For physical examination of the joint and visual proof of results, 16 of the patients also underwent a ‘second-look’ arthroscopy (assessment with a tiny camera).
The effects of the treatment were consistently positive, with all patients demonstrating significant improvements in joint function and overall quality of life; and significant reductions in pain. Of the 16 patients who underwent second look arthroscopy, 14 improved or maintained their knee cartilage levels at least 2 years post treatment.
The most satisfying and appreciated effect of the treatment was its ability to replace the need for invasive surgery. No patients required any kind of orthopaedic knee surgery during this 2 year study period. Every patient was able to continue on with their daily lives, while their bodies continued to heal from the inside-out, without the weeks and months of down-time usually associated with serious surgeries i.e. knee joint replacement.
The Doctors concluded that stem cell therapy was effective for treating elderly patients with knee arthritis. In summary, the intra-articular stem cell treatment using adipose (fat)-derived stem cells led to significant cartilage healing, improved function and range of motion; and a significant improvement in pain reduction.
*Please read: Although the information provided on this page may describe a particular patient experience and/or outcome, readers must understand that each patient presents with a unique medical history and may be recommended a different treatment/surgery by their surgeon to that described above. Individual results may vary between surgery centre/hospital, surgeon, surgery type and patient. Although SkyGen agrees to share all updates from patients at their request, SkyGen does not endorse any physical activities attempted by patients following surgery which do not follow the explicit instructions provided by their surgeon. SkyGen encourages all patients to discuss the risks of such activities with medical professionals before attempting these themselves.