Latest News, Pain Management

March 16, 2016

Stem Cell Injections


Stem Cell injections are primarily for painful joints. These injections, provide a (non-surgical) treatment option, to hopefully provide long-lasting relief from chronic joint pain. The injections are performed under imaging guidance, as needed, to ensure proper placement of the stem cells. The stem cells have two key properties: The ability to self-renew and the ability to differentiate, giving rise to the mature types of cells that make up our organs and tissues.

In general, Stem Cell injections can be helpful in treating moderate osteoarthritis in the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle, or thumb, where there is not complete collapse of the joint space and not “bone on bone” changes. There are some medical issues (like lymphoma and leukemia) that will preclude you from having a stem cell procedure done.

  • Patient with cancer history (such as prostate cancer or breast cancer), not in remission for at least 5 years
  • Certain other malignancies or blood borne diseases that you are being treated for
  • Patient with any current infection
  • Patient who uses a high dose of Coumadin
  • General procedural contraindication
  • Patients with multiple medical issues may not be good candidates (low testosterone, low vitamin D, hypothyroidism, diabetes, smoker). This a partial list; there are other conditions that may limit your stem cell candidacy.

We most commonly use stem cell injections for larger joints, such as hips and knees but also can be used in smaller joints as well. Stem cell treatment is also an option for chronic tendon issues that have been resistant to other treatments. These are typically in the shoulder, elbow and Achilles tendon.

The final cost of this treatment will ultimately be determined by what particular injections are being done. The cost can vary but is estimated at $4000 to inject one joint and $5000 for two joints.  Your physician may also suggest following up with a Platelet Rich Plasma or (PRP) injection which would be   an additional cost.

Stem Cell therapy is typically not covered by your insurance company. You will need to pay out of pocket for the treatment at the time of service, but it has the potential to help you either avoid a major surgical procedure or it could help you have a better outcome and/or quicker recovery if it is performed alongside surgery.

Some of our physicians offer stem cell injections at Arkansas Surgical Hospital.

We will schedule a consultation for an appointment to review your X-rays, conduct a physical exam and determine if you are a good candidate for these injections or not.

IF you are a good candidate, the doctor will harvest your own stem cells from fat or bone marrow and reinject them into your joint or tendon.

There is some limited data suggesting an ability to regenerate cartilage in joints, but it also appears that whether or not the cartilage regenerates has little correlation with relief of pain. If there is significant spurring and significant loss of the joint space, there is little chance of cartilage regeneration.

In our experience most patients have seen moderate relief of pain around 1-2 months post injection. This will hopefully continue to improve for the first 3-6 months after the stem cell procedure. Unfortunately there may be patients who do not see any improvement at all from this procedure. Stem cell and PRP injections are still viewed as an experimental treatment option and research is still being done now to determine what areas this is most effective in and who the best candidates are.  Call us today if you are interested!

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