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The Stem Cell Alternative to Hip Replacement Surgery

By Joanna Karpasea-Jones
 
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Photo: Getty Images

Hip replacement operations, although routine, involve a long period of recovery afterward, and the artificial joint is not permanent. Depending upon the person’s activity level, an artificial hip joint will last between 10 and 20 years before the person needs another operation. This is called a revision.

Revision surgeries are often less successful and provide less relief than the original surgery. If the person is young when he/she needs a hip replacement, he/she may need several operations in his/her lifetime.

For these reasons, the medical community is beginning to look at alternatives to hip replacements. Stem cells have been found to be beneficial. The patient has stem cells injected into their hip (or other affected joint) and they help the body repair itself and even re-grow new bone.

The subject of stem cell transplantation has been a source of controversy since some stem cell therapies originate from embryos. This is morally objectionable to some. Embryonic stem cells are often unstable and can develop into cancer after they have been injected and there is a chance of disease transfer from the embryo to the recipient.

However, researchers are now working on a way of giving patients stem cells that have been extracted from their own bone marrow and using this instead.

Doctors at a private Spire Hospital in Southampton, UK, gave six patients stem cell injections derived from their own bone marrow. There was one failure and the other five patients had an improvement in their condition. One patient, Carl Millard, said he could walk normally again after the procedure.

“I feel great. If this can prevent people having to have a hip replacement, I think it is wonderful.”

Doctors in the U.S. are also using the technique as an alternative to joint replacements. A hand full of clinics are providing the service. Christopher J. Centeno, M.D., has treated more than 200 patients at his clinic in Bloomfield, Colorado, and says, “Two thirds of them reported greater than 50 percent relief and about 40 percent reported more than 75 percent relief one to two years afterward.”

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