Stem Cell Therapy with Bone Marrow

Stem Cell Therapy with Bone Marrow


Nonoperative pain management involves innovative, cutting-edge technology, such as regenerative medicine. Bone marrow-derived stem cell therapy is used to treat many musculoskeletal conditions. These injections often are used to replace cortisone injections and nerve blocks, as stem cell therapy can offer pain relief and improve functionality.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are “blank slate” cells that can differentiate (convert) into all body cell types. These cells contain growth factors and anti-inflammatory substances that relief inflammation, regenerate body structures, and alleviate pain. Stem cells have a significant amount of biologic material that benefits the patient’s own body. Because they are taken from the patient’s own bone marrow, there is no risk for rejection or adverse reactions. The richest source of stem cells is the iliac crest of the hip/pelvis bone.

How are bone marrow stem cells obtained?

When you arrive to the surgical center, the nurse has you change into a procedure gown. The hip region is cleaned with an antiseptic solution, and the skin and tissues is numbed with lidocaine. The procedure needle is gently inserted into the iliac crest, and fluoroscopy is used to assure correct placement. Using aspiration, the bone marrow solution is withdrawn. After removal, the solution is taken to the laboratory, the needle is removed, and a bandage is placed over the insertion area.

How much bone marrow is removed and what happens with it?

Around 60 milliliters of bone marrow are removed from the iliac crest. The bone marrow solution is placed in vials and processed in a centrifuge machine. Centrifugation involves spinning of the vials to separate the stem cells from other marrow components. Once the solution is purified, it is placed in syringes to be given to the patient.

How is the injection procedure done?

After the bone marrow is obtained, the intended site is cleaned with an antimicrobial solution. The procedure needle is positioned in the joint or near the body structure, and the bone marrow stem cells are instilled. After the needle is removed, a bandage is applied over the site. The total procedure time at our Venturis health clinic is around 2-3 hours, which also involves laboratory processing.

What can I expect after the bone marrow stem cell injection?

The affected joint or body region will be more painful than usual for 2-5 days following the injection. This is due to the normal reaction of healing by the body. Inflammation occurs, but gradually improves after a few days. The bone marrow harvest site will be a little sore, and you should use ice packs to the area to reduce pain. You should avoid anti-inflammatory agents for a few days, as the body’s inflammatory response is a normal part of healing.

Does bone marrow stem cell therapy work?

As with other stem cell therapies, bone marrow-derived stem cell injections have been proven effective. In a study from the Beijing Institute of Technology, stem cells from bone marrow were shown to have significant cartilage regenerative ability in animals. In addition, studies have shown that these injections improved spinal arthritis, knee osteoarthritis, shoulder bursitis, and sacroiliac joint pain. In a study were stem cells were used to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers noted a positive short-term outcome.

How are stem cell injections different from cortisone shots?

Bone marrow-derived stem cell injections are used to repair damaged and degenerated tissue. Cortisone shots do not offer healing ability. They work by decreasing inflammation to relieve pain. Stem cell injections have anti-inflammatory effects as well, so they offer pain relief.


Tyndall A & Van Laar JM, Stem cells in the treatment of inflammatory arthritis. Clinical Rheumatology, 24(4), 565-574.