Stem Cell Therapy for Knees
Stem Cell Therapy for Knees can be very effective in treating osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. OA is the most common form of arthritis, affecting over 400,000 adults in New Zealand¹.
OA occurs when the cartilage within the knee joint begins to become worn and age more rapidly. It is degenerative, usually developing slowly and getting worse over time. This 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 knee 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 Knee Pain
Traditional treatments for knee pain 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 knee
- Corticosteroid (Cortisone) injections are given directly into the knee joint to help reduce swelling and relieve pain
- Hyaluronic acid injections (such as Synvisc) lubricate the knee for 6-8 months, with reduction in pain
- PRP and autologous conditioned serum confer only temporary benefit for months (as opposed to live stem cells)
- Knee replacement surgery
Medication, physical therapy and cortisone injections may provide pain relief, but not a long-term solution. Knee replacement is not always available and is a major surgery requiring months of rehabilitation.
Stem Cell Treatment for Knees
Traditional treatments are designed to reduce pain and improve the mobility of the knee 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 replacement surgery.
At the NZ Stem Cell Treatment Centre we have had a lot of success in treating patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis across all age groups – 85% or more of those treated with knee OA report improvement and benefit. 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.
Note that Stem cell therapy is more effective earlier on in the disease process, with less predictable benefit in stage 4 disease. Stem cell therapy is also less likely to be helpful with biomechanical issues such as severely bowed legs.
Stem Cell Knee Treatment NZ
The stem cell knee 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 85% of stem cell knee treatments, and this benefit can continue for years.