Edited by Dr. Pierantonio Gardelin, specialist in Orthopedic Surgery – Columbus Clinic Center

Osteoarthritis of the knee is the most common pathology in the over 50s. When it progresses to the point where movement is difficult, replacement surgery is required.

However, knee replacement surgery can be avoided with a mesenchymal stem cell transplant which helps to slow the rate of arthritic degeneration, explains Dr. Gardelin , a specialist in orthopaedic surgery.

“The transplant of mesenchymal stem cells in osteoarthritis of the knee is an innovative technique but it has already been used for some years with extraordinary results”, says Dr. Gardelin, “The mesenchymal stem cells are immature, undifferentiated cells that are drawn from the patient’s  adipose tissue. They are then carefully treated and injected back into the patient’s knee, or into any other arthritic joint. Their strong anti-inflammatory, anti-degenerative action and ability to stimulate  the production of cartilage can prevent progression of the osteoarthritis until a knee replacement is needed.”

How is the mesenchymal cell transplant performed?

Treatment with mesenchymal stem cells can be performed in the doctor’s surgery and is made up of 3 phases:

  1. local anaesthetic
  2. adipose tissue is drawn from the patient’s abdomen or thigh. The sample is taken with a long, thin needle through a small incision. The adipose tissue is drawn into a special syringe containing metal microspheres that break the fat up into tiny fragments, separating the intact mesenchymal cells from the residue.
  3. injection into the knee of only the mesenchymal stem cells, which once extracted are like a cellular pulp. This is transferred under sterile conditions into a special needle. The cells are injected into the knee joint where needed where they start to develop their anti-inflammatory, anti-degenerative effect and stimulate the production of cartilage.

How many treatments are needed?

A single administration is sufficient.

How soon can the patient walk again?

Immediately after treatment.

Once the cells have been injected, the patient can walk without crutches and can already go home after just half an hour. There is no need for physiotherapy or an overnight stay in the clinic.

There are no particular restrictions on what the patient can do after treatment although it is advisable not to do any intense physical activity or to lift any heavy weights.

In fact, the knee can sometimes be swollen and can be painful for one or two days. The pain and the swelling will pass on their own.

Can osteoarthritis be prevented?

A daily strategy to help combat osteoarthritis involves keeping to a healthy diet to avoid putting excess weight on the joints, natural food supplements to lessen the inflammation, together with regular physical exercise to keep muscles toned and able to support the joints.

At the first sign of osteoarthritis, the best therapy is physical exercise, physiotherapy and keeping muscles well-toned.