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What is Adipose-Derived Stem Cell Therapy?

Adipose-derived cell-based therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that utilizes the body’s natural healing mechanism to treat various conditions. It involves the use of adipose tissue (fat) from your own body as an injectable substance with remarkable healing and regenerative properties. It may be used to treat various orthopedic, cardiovascular, neuromuscular and autoimmune conditions.

Potential Benefits of Adipose-Derived Cell Therapy

The potential benefits of adipose-derived cellular therapy over other surgical options may include:

  • Promotes natural healing of damaged tissues
  • Alternative therapy to surgery
  • No immune rejection as the cells are harvested from your own body
  • May treat severe injuries and degeneration that cannot be repaired, such as degenerative disc disease
  • Is not associated with the potential risks and complications associated with surgery

Indications for Adipose-Derived Cell Therapy

Adipose-derived stem cell therapy can be used to treat various degenerative conditions of the shoulders, knees, hips, and spine. They can also be employed in the treatment of various soft tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons as well as bone-related injuries. Some of the conditions may be treated include:

  • Fractures
  • Nonunion of bone fractures
  • Joint arthritis
  • Osteonecrosis (death of bone tissue)
  • Degenerative vertebral discs

Preparation for Adipose-Derived Cell Therapy

Preoperative preparation for the therapy may involve the following steps:

  • A thorough examination is performed by your doctor to check for any medical issues that need to be addressed prior to the procedure.
  • You will be asked if you have allergies to medications, anesthesia, or latex.
  • You should inform your doctor of any medications, vitamins, or supplements that you are taking.
  • It is important that you stop taking any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at least two weeks before your procedure.
  • Preparing for a stem cell procedure is relatively easy and your doctor will give you specific instructions depending on your condition.
  • A written consent will be obtained from you after the procedure has been explained in detail.

How does Adipose-Derived Cell Therapy Work?

Fat contains a high percentage of undifferentiated cells that may regenerate and multiply forming tissue. Conventional cell-based treatments isolate these cells and inject them into areas that require healing or repair. Many cells, however, die in the process due to lack of a supportive environment. Adipose-derived cell therapy involves the use of a special device that preserves the fat environment which contains cells such as pericytes and cytokines that support and direct the activity of regenerative cells. During the process, the adipose tissue is fragmented to release cells and certain residues that promote inflammation are removed. No enzymes are used at all and a sterile saline solution helps minimize damage to the cellular products.

Adipose-Derived Cell Therapy Procedure

  • For the procedure, your doctor first selects a site for fat extraction. The area is injected with a mixture of anesthetic and saline.
  • After the area is sufficiently anesthetized, about 50-120 cc of fat is extracted, depending on how much is needed.
  • There is no visible change in appearance at the donor site. The fat is then processed in the special device which takes about 20 minutes.
  • It is then drawn into syringes and injected into areas that require healing and regeneration. The entire procedure takes about 90 minutes.

Post-Operative Care and Recovery

In general, postoperative care and recovery after adipose-derived cell therapy will involve the following:

  • You will be transferred to the recovery area where your nurse will closely observe you for any allergic/anesthetic reactions and monitor your vital signs as you recover.
  • You will most likely be able to return to work the next day following your procedure.
  • You will need to take it easy and avoid any load-bearing activities for at least two weeks following your procedure.
  • You will need to refrain from taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) for a while as this can affect the healing process of your body.
  • You may notice pain, swelling, and discomfort near the surgery site. Pain and anti-inflammatory medications are provided as needed.
  • You should keep the surgical site clean and dry. Instructions on surgical site care and bathing will be provided.
  • Periodic follow-up appointments will be scheduled to monitor your progress.

Risks and Complications

Adipose-derived cell therapy is generally considered a safe procedure with minimal complications, however, as with any medical procedure, complications can occur.

Some risk factors related to adipose-derived cell therapy include infection as bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens that can cause disease may be introduced during the preparation process.

The procedure to either remove or inject the cells also has the risk of introducing an infection to the damaged tissue into which they are injected. Rarely, an immune reaction may occur from injected cells.

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Orthopaedic Centers
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