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The Future of Pain Management: Stem Cells?

By Jordan Churchill, Director of Operations

The Future of Pain Management: Stem Cells?There has been a lot of discussion surrounding regenerative medicine and the use of stem cells for the treatment of pain. In this discussion, we are referring to autologous (or “self) stem cells, ie; those that are aspirated from stem-cell rich areas in the body, centrifuged down to separate the cells, and reintroduced to the body in the affected area.
It’s important to understand that current interventional pain techniques are the result of decades of peer reviewed study and actual patient results data. Patients improve under the course of therapy and, with the right support, can maintain that improvement. That is to say, current pain management strategies are the result of an evidence-based approach.
The same peer review needs to occur in the field of stem cell therapies, most notably those that offer relief of pain conditions such as arthritis of the knee. The Mayo Clinic has thus been conducting their own studies into stem cell efficacy, with some surprising results.
Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus conducted the “world’s first prospective, blinded and placebo-
controlled clinical study to test the benefit of using bone marrow stem cells, a regenerative medicine therapy, to reduce arthritic pain and disability in knees.” Researchers extracted 60 to 90 milliliters of bone marrow from each patient, then filtered it, removing all blood cells, and concentrated it down to just several milliliters. The solution, which contained tens of thousands of stem cells, was injected into a patient’s knee using ultrasound-
guided imagery. What they found was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine; that not only was autologous stem cell therapy a safe option for the treatment of knee pain, but that significant benefit can be achieved.

The use of stem cell therapy has been demonstrated in other areas, particularly in knee care, such as meniscus surgery. In a double-blind study by Vangsness and Colleagues, meniscal repair patients were evaluated 12 months post-operatively, where the results group showed 24% more meniscal volume in those that had received stem cell injections pre-op, compared with the control group’s 6%.

The results were similarly positive in a study by Phillipe Hernigou MD; where 100% of his patients healed by 6 months after a rotator cuff repair surgery, compared with the control group’s rate of 67%. Yet more amazing, in a 10-year follow-up of those same patients, 87% of the treated group had their rotator cuffs still intact, compared with just 44% in the untreated control group.

While further studies will continue to develop our understanding of the use of autologous stem cells in other conditions, the results in osteoarthritis cases has been very encouraging. BMAC (bone-marrow aspirate concentrate), the strategy utilized by Mayo and others, is a cutting-edge technique utilized by Restore Medical Partners physicians to provide relief of knee pain caused by degenerative osteoarthritis. If you suffer from chronic knee pain and have failed other therapies or wish to avoid surgery, BMAC might be right for you.

Jordan Churchill is a UK-born medical practice executive, and Director of Operations for Restore
Medical Partners. He is an active member of the Venice Young Professionals and has become well known in Venice area medical circles. His background includes medical strategic management, office surgery development, and business operations.

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