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Stem Cell Therapy for the Elbow

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Stem cell therapy is an innovative treatment that utilizes the patient’s own stem cells to replace dying or degenerative tissue. These cells are obtained from the patient’s own bone marrow or fat tissue. Stem cell therapy is used for many elbow conditions, such as lateral epicondylitis.[/vc_column_text][vc_accordion active_tab=”1″ style=”boxed_accordion”][vc_accordion_tab title=”Obtaining Stem Cells”][vc_column_text]Stem cells live in the human body. The two best sites for obtaining stem cells are the iliac crest (back of hip bone) and the fat tissue (adipose). If donor stem cells are used, they are often obtained from amniotic fluid that is donated when a woman has a baby. The hip region is cleaned using an antiseptic solution, and the skin is numbed using an anesthetic.

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The procedure needle is gently inserted into the top of the hip bone using x-ray guidance (fluoroscopy). The bone marrow fluid is aspirated into the syringe and taken to the laboratory. A bandage is applied to the site. For adipose tissue stem cells, a small incision is made over the area, and the doctor uses a flexible cannula to gently suction the tissue into a container.

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The bone marrow solution or adipose solution is processed in a centrifuge, which spins the liquid to separate the stem cells from other components. The stem cells are further processed to purify them before they are injected into the elbow region. The cells are collected and injected on the same day to ensure best effect. Donated stem cells come from a tissue bank, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Stem Cell Therapy Mechanism of Action”][vc_column_text]Stem cells accelerate the body’s own natural healing mechanism and are effective for treating many elbow conditions. When the body is injured, or a joint is degenerative, adult stem cells are dispatched to the area to regenerate healthy cells. However, directly injecting the stem cell-rich solution into the site improves regeneration, as the solution is concentrated. Stem cells work to regenerate tissue, reduce pain, and promote healing without the need for steroid injections and surgery. Using potent growth factors, stem cells injected directly to the site of injury or degeneration will stimulate the growth of new tissue.

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The lateral epicondyle is a bony structure of the elbow where tendons attach to the elbow from forearm muscles. When these tendons are injured or chronically inflamed, pain occurs. Called tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, this injury occurs due to repetitive motion of the forearm, such as lifting weights, using hand-held tools, and hitting a backhand shot when playing tennis. Tennis elbow responds well to stem cell therapy, which allows the area to heal without the need for surgery or steroid injections.

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Other elbow conditions that respond to stem cell therapy include sprained ligaments, tendon strains, elbow muscle injuries, and arthritis.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Scientific Studies to Support Stem Cell Therapy”][vc_column_text]Recent clinical studies are showing a beneficial role of locally delivered biological growth factor and stem cells. According to a recent research report, bone marrow mononuclear stem cells from the iliac crest are considered for effective in treating tendinopathy of the elbow. Because stem cell therapy is still fairly new, few long-term studies exist.

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A recent research study involved 30 adults with tennis elbow that received a single injection of bone marrow aspirate, which contained mesenchymal stem cells and plasma growth factors. The patients were followed over 12 weeks and evaluated using the Tennis Elbow Evaluation score. According to this study, one injection of stem cells produced a significant improvement at the short-term and medium-term follow-up periods. The researchers concluded that stem cell injection therapy was a safe alternative treatment for tennis elbow, especially for people who failed on non-operative treatments.[/vc_column_text][/vc_accordion_tab][vc_accordion_tab title=”Resources”][vc_column_text]

Singh A, Gangwar DS, & Singh S (2014). Bone marrow injection: A novel treatment for tennis elbow. J Nat Sci Biol Med, 5(2), 389-391.

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