Stem cells are special cells that have the potential to become many different types of cells depending on how they’re stimulated. These cells are found in many areas of the body, including the bones and fatty tissue. When used for stem cell injections, cells are usually taken from the patient’s belly or buttocks or from the hip bone. Injections can be very helpful in healing tissue damage to reduce or eliminate chronic pain and related symptoms.
Once stem cells are injected into a site of tissue damage or injury, local growth factors, and other substances act on them, initiating changes within the cell that cause it to become a specific type of tissue. So, for instance, if an area of soft or connective tissue is damaged, injecting stem cells into that area promotes responses from local agents like growth factors that in turn stimulate the cells to become new, healthy tissue that can be used to replace the tissue that’s become damaged. Stem cell injections can be used to treat many types of tissue, including bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and muscles. Stem cell therapy is frequently used to treat osteoarthritis in the knees and other large joints and to treat chronic back pain that hasn’t responded to physical therapy. By healing damaged tissue “naturally,” stem cell treatment may help patients avoid or postpone some types of back or joint surgery.
Stem cell treatment is performed as an outpatient procedure, which means patients will go home the same day, usually very soon after the injections are administered. Treatment begins with the extraction of the donor stem cells from the patient’s hip, belly or elsewhere. Extraction is performed using local anesthetics to numb the donor site. Once extracted, these cells are carefully processed to separate the cells from extraneous material. These processed cells are reinjected into the patient at the site of injury where they can immediately be acted upon and begin to differentiate into specific types of tissue. Tissue regeneration typically takes about three months.