Many times, we as physicians are asked if we have undergone a treatment that we are recommending. Well, I can now say that I have.
A few months ago, I received stem cell injections from my own bone marrow concentrate into my shoulder and hip joints. I swam and played water polo in high school which was so much fun but took a toll on my body. I ended up with labral tears in both areas. The labrum is a ring of connective tissue that helps stabilize a joint. Despite a lot of physical therapy, the tears caused significant instability and frequent subluxations (partial dislocations). I included a picture of what a labral tear looks like on a shoulder MRI in the image above.
Although it’s generally a good idea to avoid elective orthopedic surgeries if possible, the level of instability was impacting my quality of life. So, I chose to proceed with arthroscopic surgical repairs of both, approximately one year apart. Both surgeries went well and improved the stability of those joints. However, I did develop some aches and pains that weren’t there before. I decided to be proactive and have these areas treated with bone marrow concentrate in hopes of preserving the joints and cartilage as much as I can. Therefore, I asked a good friend and colleague of mine (Dr. Chaz Fausel) who I trust to perform a bone marrow concentrate stem cell injection using the flexible lab platform available at Regenexx.
- Bone marrow was extracted from my bilateral iliac crests using ultrasound guidance. Don’t worry, I was plenty numb and it wasn’t bad at all.
- Our lab then processed this bone marrow aspirate to isolate the stem cell rich portion. Fortunately, I had over 1 billion total nucleated cells which is more than enough to treat two joints.
- Re-injection: Using a combination of ultrasound and fluoroscopic guidance, the bone marrow concentrate was then precisely re-injected into not only joint spaces but also into surrounding ligaments and tendons that play a large role in stability.
I woke up the next morning (Saturday) pretty darn sore, but this was expected. Fortunately, that only lasted a few days and by Monday, I was back to work, albeit moving a little gingerly. Later that week I was able to get back to the gym for basic exercises, making sure to modify appropriately so as not to aggravate those areas that were treated. Slowly but surely, I was back to full activity in a few weeks, doing what I love: hiking, swimming, and playing basketball.
It has been over two months since I was treated. Fortunately, things are going really well already. I have less pain at rest as well as with activity. This is comforting because optimal results are usually seen 4-6 months afterwards, so hopefully the best is still yet to come.
Take home message:
I have had my share of orthopedic injuries, some of which I elected to have treated surgically. I decided to be proactive and optimize these areas with my own stem cells from bone marrow concentrate. By doing this, my intent is to prevent the need for future surgeries or even joint replacements. I can now say that I’ve undergone the same procedures I perform on my patients and have a lot more understanding of what they are going through.