Relieving knee pain using stem cells

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 9:59 AM EDT
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It’s a never-ending pain, sometimes dull, sometimes sharp, accompanied by stiffness and loss of mobility. Fourteen million people suffer from arthritis in the knee. New numbers show that one out of 12 adults over the age of 25 will have a knee replacement sometime during their lifetime. But one new treatment is hoping to delay a replacement and take the pain away.

Al Perez has been teeing up … And teeing off ... For more than half his life. But his game started to suffer.

“Walking became difficult because I get some swelling and pain,” Perez explained.

Al had his right knee replaced eight years ago and he didn’t want a repeat procedure on his left.

“I have some arthritis in that knee, osteoarthritis, and I wanted to avoid at all costs another knee replacement,” shared Perez.

He found orthopedic surgeon Jason Dragoo at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic. Dragoo was part of a team that made stem-cell history.

“It set off this revolution worldwide of getting stem cells from fat,” Jason Dragoo, MD an orthopedic surgeon at UCHealth, Denver.

And now, he’s using those stem cells to ease his patients' knee pain.

“Mother Nature put in this piece of fat that’s in our knee, it’s called the fat pad. And we looked at the fat pad and it contains a very high number of stem cells,” illustrated Dr. Dragoo.

During surgery, Dr. Dragoo harvests the stem cells from the fat pad.

“We process them in the operating room and then give them back to patients during the same surgical procedures,” elaborated Dr. Dragoo.

The best candidate is someone with moderate to middle-stage arthritis. Initial studies show that the treatment reduces pain and inflammation. Now, they are looking to see if the cartilage regrows. It worked for Al. He’s four years post-surgery and his pain is gone.

“Within three, four days I was walking with barely a limp. I was good. I can walk 18 holes.”

From harvesting the cells to implant, the procedure takes about 20 minutes. Right now, the treatment is being performed at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in denver, as well as Cedars-Sinai and The Ohio State University.

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