Stem Cell Hip Repair
Repairing Damaged Cartilage

Stem cell hip repair involves the use of unspecialised cells that can self-renew indefinitely and can differentiate into any type of body tissue.

They can be obtained from the umbilical cord, an embryo or from an adult.

How Does Stem Cell Hip Repair Work?

There are two ways stem cell hip repair can be used to benefit people with hip problems. Repairing cartilage and repairing bone. Here we will look at using stem cells to repair and replace cartilage. It should be emphasised that this technique is still very much under development.

Who Can Benefit From Stem Cell Treatment?

Stem cellStem Cell Robert M. Hunt, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

There are no restrictions for this treatment in terms of either age or gender. However as it means avoiding a general anaesthetic it may have additional benefits for older patients who are more at risk from anaesthesia. How is it done? In orthopaedic surgery the patient's own stem cells are normally used (referred to as autologus stem cell transplant).

Thee to four weeks before surgery the patient will be started on a course of anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medication. It may seem strange but immunosuppressive medication is needed even when the stem cells are the patient's own. Although it is rare to reject one's own stem cells some studies have indicated that stem cells taken from a different part of the body may cause an autoimmune reaction.

On the day of surgery the patient is placed on the operating table, face down and the area around the iliac crest (part of the hip bone) is anesthetised. Using a biopsy needle and ultrasound for guidance a small amount of bone marrow is extracted. The stem cells are then taken from the bone marrow and centrifuged which results in a higher concentration of stem cells. These are then injected into the hip joint using a special needle. This is followed by another injection into the hip joint of platelet rich plasma which is needed to support cartilage growth.

The entire procedure (including extraction, centrifugation and implantation) takes about one hour and the only precaution the patient needs to keep is to be low weight bearing on the joint for about three days.

Growth of new cartilage will take a few months and is usually monitored using a MRI at two months and six months post-op.

Stem Cell Therapy

  • There is very little risk of rejection as the patient's own stem cells are used.
  • It is much less invasive than resurfacing or replacement.
  • Bone stock is preserved.
  • There is no need for a general anaesthetic.
  • There is a higher success rate compared to hip replacements.

Stem Cell Therapy

  • It is expensive; currently about 10 times the cost of a hip replacement.
  • It is still in the early stages of use and long term outcomes are unknown.
  • As with any other invasive procedure there are risks of
  • Damage to blood vessels and nerves.
  • But these are rarely associated with this procedure.

Could stem cell hip repair be the way of the future?  The cost of it is bound to fall as it becomes more available and when compared to the increased quality of life, the decreased risks of having surgery and, indeed, the need for revision work.  Surely this must be a winner.

Learn more about:

Differnt types of hip problems. 
Choosing the best time for hip replacment surgery 
The debate around glucosamine or chondroitin

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