Three San Antonio doctors are bringing the science of stem-cell therapy treatments to orthopedic injuries, a burgeoning field that caters to patients seeking to have joints or tendons rebuilt without undergoing surgery.
The physicians at The Stem Cell Orthopedic Institute of Texas — a recently created division of the long-standing South Texas Spinal Clinic — said they are among the few providers in San Antonio doing the procedures on an outpatient basis.
Dr. Ajeya Joshi, Dr. David Hirsch and Dr. John Hall are performing the services at their office, which they said significantly reduces the costs patients would face compared with having it done at a surgical center or a hospital.
The group began performing the procedures more than a year and a half ago; they launched the institute this month.
The therapy involves withdrawing a patient’s bone marrow stem cells from his or her hip, concentrating those cells and injecting them directly into the damaged joint or tendon, using musculoskeletal ultrasound technology to reach the most severely affected areas. Once preliminary exams are out of the way, the stem-cell therapy can be done in one doctor’s office visit, typically lasting an hour, while the patient is under mild sedation.
The process does not involve the controversial use of embryonic stem cells, the doctors said.
“This is a very straightforward application of cells from your own body,” said Joshi, an orthopedic spine surgeon. “You’re minimally manipulating them, and you’re returning them back to the patient.”
The stem-cell application may be an attractive option for a patient wanting to avoid surgery or who is deemed too young, too old or not medically stable enough to undergo a total knee or hip replacement, doctors said.
The procedures do not yield immediate results. If treatment is successful, the benefits are seen over time. Pain relief might become evident in a few weeks, but the formation of new tissue is likely to take six months, Hirsch said. Medical literature indicates the greatest effects likely will be seen three to four years after the injection is given, he said.
Not everyone will benefit from such treatments. For patients who have bone grating against bone or severe wearing down of their joints, the doctors won’t profess “that we’re going to just magically grow a healthy cartilage,” Joshi said.
“Most people aren’t candidates,” Hirsch said.
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