Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 400,000 adults in New Zealand¹.
OA occurs when the cartilage within a joint begins to become worn and age more rapidly. It is degenerative, usually developing slowly and getting worse over time.
Osteoarthritis occurs most often in knees and hips, as well as shoulders, ankles, elbows, wrists and fingers. Such cellular wear and tear causes inflammation, leading to reduced function, pain, weight gain, metabolic changes and depression – a downward cycle of events.
The pain, stiffness, and swelling of osteoarthritis can significantly affect your quality of life. For many people, OA is a source of chronic pain that can be exhausting and debilitating. It can also lead to problems with anxiety and depression.
¹The latest Ministry of Health New Zealand Health Survey in 2020 found 10.2% of all adults in NZ had osteoarthritis. For people over the age of 65, the predominance of OA is over 30%.
Traditional Treatment for Osteoarthritis
Traditional treatments for osteoarthritis include:
- Medication to relieve pain – such as Paracetamol and anti-inflammatory agents
- Physical therapy to increase mobility
- Occupational therapy to change the way you do everyday tasks that will reduce pain in the joint
- Corticosteroid (Cortisone) injections are given directly into joints to help reduce swelling and relieve pain
- Joint replacement surgery (most commonly for hips and knees)
Medication, physical therapy and cortisone injections may provide pain relief, but not a long-term solution. Joint replacement is not always available and is a major surgery requiring months of rehabilitation.
Stem Cell Treatment for Osteoarthritis
Traditional osteoarthritis treatments are designed to reduce pain and improve the mobility of joints rather than promote the regeneration of damaged articular cartilage. In contrast, stem cell-based therapy is a regenerative treatment intended to repair and replace the injured cells and tissues with new ones. Stem cell therapy aims to repair damaged cartilage and bone, decrease inflammation and reduce pain, and may often delay or prevent the need for knee or hip replacement surgery.
At the NZ Stem Cell Treatment Centre we have had a lot of success in treating patients suffering from osteoarthritis across all age groups. Some even report marked reduction in pain and improved mobility within hours or days. Your body will continue to age of course, but there is no reason that benefits cannot continue for years.
SVF Stem Cell Treatment Process
The stem cell osteoarthritis treatment process usually takes 4-5 hours.
After a minimally invasive procedure of harvesting a small amount of fat under local anaesthetic, the SVF (Stromal Vascular Fraction) is prepared in a sterile fashion – containing many millions of your own live stem cells and hundreds of naturally occurring growth and healing factors (cytokines) ready to reduce inflammation and repair stem cells.
They are administered intravenously and directly into joints where appropriate. The many cytokines often cause a rapid reduction in pain and inflammation, improved mobility, and provide the right environment for stem cell action over the coming months.
1. MEET AND GREET
On arrival on the day of your procedure, you will be met by the medical team. Have a shower, do not forget to eat, and take your usual medication. You will be admitted and prepared for theatre. Premeds may be given for those who are particularly nervous.
2. FAT HARVESTING PROCEDURE
NZSCTC specialises in the use of your own adult adipose (fat) derived mesenchymal stem cells. They are harvested under strict sterility using a gentle mini-liposuction technique which takes 15- 30 minutes, done under local anaesthetic. This is minimally invasive. Fat can be harvested from any area on your body, but we prefer to harvest it from the areas that will give you the best cosmetic result – usually your lower tummy or back.
3. PREPARATION OF THE SVF
After harvesting the fat cells, the next step is to isolate the cells. The collagen that binds the fat and stem cells is broken down with an enzyme, collagenase, and then separated out to produce a solution rich in your own stem cells. This solution, more correctly termed “SVF” (stromal vascular fraction), is a combination of stem cells, many growth factors (cytokines) and small granules. This process, taking around 90 minutes, yields extremely high numbers of stem cells. The extracted cells are counted, their viability noted, and ultra-filtered. No cell expansion is involved or needed.
4. DEPLOYMENT OF THE SVF
Depending on the type of deployment required, the SVF can be injected intravenously or directly into joints or soft tissues. This part takes around 30 minutes. Shortly after this you will be discharged. You are able to drive or fly home immediately.
Stem Cells are tiny “progenitor” cells. They are recruited by chemical signals emitted by damaged tissues to repair and regenerate your damaged cells. Adult stem cells appear to be particularly effective in improving painful joints, repairing cartilage and ligaments, and painful conditions of the spine.
Some patients report marked reduction in pain and improved mobility within hours or days (reflecting the powerful anti-inflammatory effect of the growth and healing factors in SVF). However some may take months to see benefit, especially in more advanced cases.
While not all people will necessarily gain the desired result, our patients report benefit in over 80% of hips and over 85% of knees, and this benefit can continue for years.