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Stem cell therapy treatments offer many advantages over traditional treatments for chronic and acute injuries such as surgery and medication. The ease of the process is an especially attractive benefit for many patients, with less risk and potentially faster recovery times.

When you visit AOKC for a regenerative medicine treatment for an orthopedic issue, we want you to be fully informed on what to expect. Read on to learn how each of our three stem cell therapies work.

Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMC)

Procedure time: 2-3 hours

Admission status: Outpatient*

Recovery: Swelling and discomfort in the injection area for up to 7 days. Physical therapy and functional rehab are advised during the ensuing 3 months.

The classic stem cell therapy treatment, bone marrow concentrate (BMC) involves applying both growth factors and multipotent stem cells to a damaged area. Once there, the BMC promotes healing by reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and spurring the growth of new, healthy tissue. This makes it an excellent option for treatment of a wide variety of orthopedic issues including arthritis, mild-to-moderate tendon and ligament tears, joint pain, and more.

The process happens in three steps:

  1. Extraction: With a special needle called a Jamshidi needle, the doctor withdraws bone marrow aspirate from an area of your pelvis that has been locally numbed. There may be some brief discomfort as the inside of the bone cannot be numbed, but most patients describe the aspiration sensation as strange rather than painful. The doctor will apply a bandage to the injection site to stop any bleeding.
  2. Concentration: As you wait, the bone marrow fluid is spun in a centrifuge. This separates the stem cells and platelets from the rest of the sample, resulting in “concentrated” bone marrow or BMC.
  3. Injection: The BMC is reintroduced into the injured area via injection. If the target area is small and difficult to reach with a needle, the doctor may use ultrasound or x-ray guidance to ensure the BMC is delivered to the precise location of your pain.

This step is the beginning of the healing process, as the platelets release growth factors guiding the stem cells into replacement cells for your damaged tissue. Most patients notice significant improvement between two and six weeks later, although each patient’s healing and recovery time is different.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections

Procedure time: 15 – 30 minutes

Admission status: Outpatient*

Recovery: Can return to work the following day, but avoid putting strain on the affected joint for 2-3 days. May resume normal activities at that point.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a popular and inexpensive alternative to, or complement to, surgery for those with chronic or overuse injuries such as tennis or golfer’s elbow, plantar fasciitis, back pain, and knee osteoarthritis. Platelets contain several types of growth factors that are vital to cellular health. By transferring them to a joint or other area where they’re not typically found in large quantities, the platelets can stimulate the healing response and speed recovery.

A PRP injection is very similar to a BMC stem cell injection. It also involves a minimally invasive process, beginning with drawing blood from your arm, concentrating it in a centrifuge, and re-injecting it into the damaged area. The key difference is that PRP does not contain stem cells. Instead the platelets are the key ingredient of the medicine to be applied to your area of pain.

Amniotic Fluid

Procedure time: 1 hour

Admission status: Outpatient*

Recovery: May return to work the same day.

Amniotic fluid and the amniotic membrane are rich in growth factors. An amniotic fluid injection utilizes this donated, preserved, FDA-regulated material that has been developed into a biologic therapy and doesn’t contain any fetal tissue. It can be used to treat osteoarthritis, joint conditions, tendinopathies, and other types of inflammatory diseases.

Because the medicine comes from a donor, an amniotic fluid treatment simply involves injection. The doctor will numb the injection site with local anesthetic and may use ultrasound or fluoroscopic guidance. Although you’ll only receive a small dose, more than 200 growth factors, proteins, and collagens will then go to work reducing inflammation and spurring healing.

Most patients experience relief from inflammation within a few days, but it can take up to several weeks to notice an effect.

*Most of our regenerative medicine procedures occur in a physician’s office, but some patients may prefer to have them done on an outpatient basis in a surgery center if they prefer non-local anesthesia.

Call today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jensen, or to learn more about what stem cell therapy can do for you.