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Stem Cell Therapy FAQ

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What is the success rate for stem cell therapy?
 
So far, most of our patients have done well for both symptomatic relief as well as showing increased cartilage thickness, as measured by ultrasound at 6-7 months following the procedure.  The success rate for knees is 95 percent and for hips is 50 percent (many of our hip patients have been very difficult cases.) Now, the amount of cartilage growth varies with younger people generally showing more improvement than older patients.

 

We are also measuring other things such as functional capacity using what is called the WOMAC scale, a standardized measurement of function for patients with osteoarthritis.  We also assess the time it takes a person to walk 50 feet.  And we also measure a patient's own perception of their pain on a visual analogue scale.
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Does the procedure hurt?   

There is some discomfort associated with providing the local anesthetic.  However, the amount of discomfort is minimal.

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What is the recovery time?

The recovery time can vary depending on the joint that is being treated.  For knees you will need to be at rest (limited activity) for 3 days. After that, you can gradually increase your activity over the next few days. You will probably be able to return to work in about a week, depending on the nature of your job.  

 

Following a stem cell procedure on a hip, you will need to be on bedrest for 48 hours, then you will need to be use crutches with NO weight bearing on the treated side for several more days.

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Will I be given any anesthesia?

You will be given a local or regional anesthetic and also some oral Valium prior to the procedure.

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Will I be able to drive to the appointment myself?    

No. You will need to have someone drive you home after the appointment.

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How long does it take to grow the new cartilage?

It is a long, slow process and may take up to a year to see measurable differences in cartilage. In knees, we use ultrasound to measure cartilage thickness at 6-7 months following the procedure because it is more sensitive. So far we are seeing improvement in cartilage thickness as early as six months.

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Will I feel better before then?   

Yes. You should be feeling better in about 4 weeks or so. This is because we will also be injecting the platelet rich plasma into the joint as well, which promotes healing in the area.

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What is the advantage of stem cell treatment over joint replacement?  

The biggest advantage is that it is much less invasive with a faster recovery time. There is less risk of infection and other surgery related complications. Like PRP, the use of your own stem cells is as "natural" a treatment as there is. No metal or plastic. Joint replacements last approximately 10 years and need to be repeated. Stem cell treatment may also need to be repeated every few years, but again, it is a simpler, less invasive procedure.  In contrast, joint replacement surgery is not reversible.

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How long does it last?

Since this is still a new treatment, we don't know the long term results such as how long it lasts or how long you will continue to grow cartilage.

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How much cartilage growth can I expect?

Again, we don't know the exact amount. It will not return the amount you had when you were 20, but it will be better than what you had before the treatment. It depends, in part, on strictly following the post procedure instructions.

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Can I have the procedure if I have "bone-on-bone"?   

There does need to be some cartilage present for the stem cells to be able to generate new cartilage.  We do not recommend a stem cell procedure for patients who have no cartilage left.

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What criteria do you consider to determine a person's eligibility for stem cell treatment?

There are several factors. Most important is the severity of the osteoarthritis. There must be some cartilage and joint space left. Other factors are age, general health, height and weight and if the person has maintained an active lifestyle.

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What kind of stem cells do you use?      

We use autologous stem cells.  These are your own stem cells that we obtain from your own bone marrow from the iliac crest of your pelvis.

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How many stem cells do you get from the bone marrow when it is processed?

Approximately 1.5-2 million.

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How do I know my stem cells are good?

It is assumed that if you are in general good health, and under the age of 75, the stem cells will be good.

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When will I be able to return to work? jog? ski? play golf? etc.

There is no exact answer to that. It varies depending on the joint being treated. If you have a desk job, then it may be possible for you to return to work in a few days. If your job requires you to be more active, then it may take longer.

 

In general, you should allow at least 3 months before returning to any strenuous athletic activities or exercise. It may take up to one year depending on the individual and the type of activity.

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Is the procedure covered by my insurance? 

Because this procedure is still considered experimental, it is not yet covered by insurance companies. Medicare, does not cover this procedure.

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CareCredit

“I’ve been taking the Complete Wellness vitamins I purchased at Arthritis Treatment Center for 10 days now.  I’ve noticed a big difference.  I used to wake up hurting everywhere and now I don’t.  I can’t contribute the way I feel to anything else but the Complete Wellness.  I feel just great!”
Betty Zeiba -
Frederick, Maryland
 
“My family doctor was giving me cortisone injections for my pain.  I continued to receive these for over a year.  I called Dr. Wei’s office about two years ago because I was referred by a neighbor.  I didn’t have to wait at all to get an appointment.  I cancelled my appointment with my family doctor.  I decided to participate in a research study with Dr. Wei’s office even though I thought I might feel like a guinea pig.  I never found this to be true.  I had already had injections for my knees so that part of the study didn’t bother me.  I thought it would take a lot of my time to be in a study but I thought if the treatment is going to work I will find the time.  The services I have received have helped me in my daily life!  The staff and Dr. Wei have all been kind and helpful!”
Nancy Ahalt -
Frederick, Maryland
 
“I had pain in my left knee at times worse than others, but the pain never left.  It slowed me down and I could not take walks like I wanted to.  I needed to sit and rest a lot.  Some of my relatives had seen Dr. Wei so I decided I would go to him.  Dr. Wei found out I had severe rheumatoid arthritis and was able to help me.  I feel very positive and encouraged by my laser treatment.  Every employee that I have encountered at Arthritis Treatment Center has been very helpful and personable.  It’s been a pleasant experience.  I did not dread coming to this office!  I’m feel great with very little tenderness in my knee and only when I touch it, but there is no actual pain!”
Mary Shober -
Frederick, Maryland
 
 
“I couldn’t turn my head very well from side to side.  It was very uncomfortable and painful.  I did wear a neck collar when I rode in the car.  I would tense my neck when driving because the pain was so bad.  I also wore the neck collar at night because it supported my neck and I was able to sleep better.  When I wanted to do any activity I did them in pain.  Dr. Wei recommended I start the electrical stimulation treatments and said it might help.  I’ve had several treatments and my pain level has gone down.  I don’t wear the collar as much but I do feel support from it.  The collar gives me comfort.  My pain level started around a 4 or 5 and now it’s down to about 2 or 3.  I am able to turn my head from side to side now with less discomfort.  I would recommend this treatment to others.  I like it because it helps.  It is worth doing as an alternative to taking another pill or getting another injection.”
Jean Whitaker -
Salem, New Jersey


 

 
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