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Stem Cells and Bone Healing in Osteoarthritic Joints


avascular_necrosis_hipThe main culprit that sends a patient for joint replacement surgery is the disintegration of the bones in the joint. With this disintegration comes pain and limited activities. As noted in many articles on this blog, including “The Non-Surgical Treatment of Avascular Necrosis,” hip replacement for bone damage or necrosis (death) is not always the patient’s desired first option.

Stem cell therapy for hip degeneration

As early as 2004, researchers began to make the connection between stem cell injection therapy and the possible re-growing of damaged bone. They speculated on previous research that showed bone marrow implanted into a necrotic lesion of the femoral head had benefits in treating bone death in the hip. For this reason, they studied the implantation of autologous bone-marrow mononuclear cells in a necrotic lesion of the femoral head to determine the effect on the clinical symptoms and the stage and volume of osteonecrosis.1

In other words, they aspirated bone marrow stem cells and patched them into bone defects in hip bones. Their results were remarkable. In the 13 patients they studied with advanced bone defects in the thigh bone’s femoral head, they found that after twenty-four months, there was a significant reduction in pain and in joint symptoms.

Stem cell therapy for the shin

In more recent research, doctors investigated the potential of bone marrow aspiration concentrate (BMAC) in accelerating and regenerating bone loss in the tibia (shin). This is segmental loss of bone of a few inches. In this study, patients averaged a loss of three inches of bone. Eight patients were followed where the stem cells were used as augmentation to a graft. “Bony consolidation of the regenerate was achieved in all eight cases….No further operations concerning the regenerate were needed and no adverse effects were observed with the BMAC procedure.”2

In other words, the bone marrow stem cells “cemented” or consolidated the bones by stimulating repair on both sides of the graft. In cases of osteoarthritis, the stem cells begin a healing process that may be best described as the filler to fill out the rough painful edges.

In this last study, it should be pointed out that the stem cells helped the bones heal and that is the goal we try to achieve with Stem Cell Prolotherapy. The goal of Stem Cell Prolotherapy is to have the stem cells aid in healing by stimulating the repair of injured tissues. The target is the articular cartilage, the protective covering on the bones where they met at the joints. Healing cartilage allows bones to heal.

Contact us with any questions on Stem Cell Prolotherapy.

1. Gangji V, Hauzeur JP, Matos C, et al. Treatment of osteonecrosis of the femoral head with implantation of autologous bone-marrow cells. A pilot study. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2004 Jun;86-A(6):1153-60.
2. Gessmann J, Köller M, Godry H, Schildhauer TA, Seybold D. Regenerate augmentation with bone marrow concentrate after traumatic bone loss. Orthop Rev (Pavia). 2012 Jan 2;4(1):e14. doi: 10.4081/or.2012.e14. Epub 2012 Mar 27.


  1. Donneley Kay says:

    I suffer from chronic ankle pain from first an ankle injury in softball followed by arthroscopic surgery that made little if any difference. I have around an 8-9 pain level going on the inside and outside of my ankle most days. It won’t flex enough to allow me a normal gait, therefore my foot is pronating out and my opposite hip hurts as a result.

    I am 60 years old, am a gym teacher/principal, and have always led an active lifestyle. My orthopedic specialist tells me my next options are additional surgery followed by fusion, followed by replacement; not very rosy. I am athletically fit for my age and not overweight.

    Am I a possible candidate for prolotherapy? Thank you.

    Donneley Kay
    Principal, Warner School

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