New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
For some people, suffering from medical problems like torn muscles, inflamed tendons and degenerating joints, the cure might literally be within their bodies. In a unique treatment, bone marrow blood rich in stem cells is extracted from a patient, specific ingredients from the marrow are separated, concentrated and injected into damaged or injured areas.
Called Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate (BMAC), the procedure holds promise for patients suffering from bone or joint injuries or conditions like osteoarthritis.
This is a relatively new treatment and as a result, a limited number of medical facilities have physicians with the knowledge, equipment and experience to perform it.
Although research on this procedure is ongoing, results have been encouraging and the potential applications are wide-ranging. For example, a study published in the European Journal of Orthopedic Surgery indicates patients with knee pain from degenerative arthritis treated using BMAC experienced significant improvement in both knee pain and function.
A similar treatment is Amniotic Allograft Injection. With the amniotic procedure, collagen and stem cells from amniotic fluid are injected into the affected area. The fluid contains natural proteins and growth factors from amniotic tissue and fluid that promote rapid fetal development. After injection into painful soft tissue or joints, the result is diminished inflammation, less pain and increased soft-tissue repair and reconstruction.
Stem cells from amniotic fluid have an amazing capability for reproduction superior to stem cells that come from adult blood, bone marrow or fat tissue. The amniotic fluid is taken from live, healthy donors who are pre-screened during pregnancy and chosen based on stringent donor selection criteria.
Amniotic Allograft Injection can be used for difficult-to-treat conditions like soft-tissue injuries, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, inflamed nerves, muscle tears, repetitive motion injuries, joint pain from osteoarthritis including knees shoulders, hip, back and neck pain and for postsurgical pain.
At an American Podiatric Medical Association symposium, a physician who uses the procedure to treat patients with plantar fasciitis reported the experience at his clinic is that recipients showed at least 70 percent improvement with the injection of the amniotic material. Even better is that relief seems to be longer lasting than with steroid injections.
Obviously, the amniotic injection and BMAC procedures should be performed by an experienced physician skilled in the technique.
With BMAC, marrow is removed with a needle under anesthesia. The process usually takes only a few minutes. The marrow is then spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the cells before being injected into the treatment site. In some instances, the BMAC treatment can be combined with amniotic injection to promote faster healing.
There is typically tenderness and bruising at the spot where the injection was made to remove bone marrow. It usually disappears in 7-14 days.
Because these treatments are cutting edge, many insurance companies are still trying to determine coverage and as a result, some facilities that offer the treatment require out-of-pocket payment from patients.
If you are unsure whether your insurance will cover these injections, you can contact an experienced medical facility that in many cases has had success in helping patients find complete coverage.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.