FAQs on Stem Cell Injections in Phoenix AZ

Painful disc of the low back or neck contribute to disability and suffering. For select patients, regenerative therapies are now available. In the U.S., more than 500,000 spinal fusions and 400,000 lumbar discectomies are performed each year. Because many patients do not want surgery, stem cell injection is an option.

What are stem cells?

Called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), these cells are found in several adult tissues. MSCs stimulate the healing process of the body, and allow for regeneration of damaged and injured body parts. While stem cells can come from embryos, adult stem cells are derived from bone marrow.

Why are stem cell injections done?

Low back pain is associated with degenerative disc disease, which can now be treated with stem cell injection. This condition occurs when intervertebral discs age and decrease in structural integrity, height, and flexibility. Around 25% of American adults have low back pain, with many of these related to chronic forms of disc disease. In addition, these injections are used to treat muscle/tendon/ligament tears, rotator cuff injuries, degenerative joint disease, and arthritis.

Who is a candidate for stem cell injection therapy?

The pain management specialist will have you come in for a consultation if you are interested in stem cell injection. The procedure is best for patients who have minor tears rather than complete tears, and patients who have only mild degenerative disease versus severe disease.

How do I prepare for the procedure?

Because a mild sedative may be used, you should not eat or drink 6 hours before the procedure. If you are taking blood-thinning drugs, notify the doctor beforehand, as these must be held for several days prior to the injection procedure. When you arrive at the medical facility, you change into a gown, and a nurse places an IV catheter in your arm.

How is the stem cell injection procedure done?

The doctor must obtain the MSCs from your bone marrow. This is usually done at the iliac bone (back of the hip). The skin is cleansed with an antiseptic, and a local anesthetic is used to numb the area. A small needle is inserted into the bone and the marrow is aspirated out. The stem cells must be processed in the laboratory before injected, which only takes a short time. The doctor cleanses the affected body area and injects the stem cells. Depending on what body region is involved, several injections may be required.

What complications and risks should I consider?

Because this procedure involves insertion of a needle into the body, there are some risks associated with it. These include bleeding, infection, nerve damage, pain at the injection site, and blood vessel injury. In addition, there is a chance of allergic reaction to latex, sedatives, and/or antiseptic solutions.

How effective is the stem cell injection?

Based on recent clinical studies, the efficacy rate of stem cell injection is 80-90%. One recent study found that stem cell injection for knee arthritis decreased pain scores and improved range of motion. A 2014 research study showed a 70% success rate for stem cell injection treatment for rotator cuff injury.

Can stem cell injections help with recovery after surgery?

Because stem cells improve bone and structure healing, they can be used following a surgical procedure. Be sure to discuss this option with your doctor. However, at this time, these procedures are not covered by health insurance.