When a patient comes into our office and we have made a realistic determination that they are a bone marrow derived stem cell candidate, the patient will often ask, “How long does the treatment last?” Most times I will have a good idea why they are asking the question. The reason is because nothing they have tried up until this point has been a long-lasting success for them. In going over a hip or knee osteoarthritis patient’s history for example, we will discover a medical history filled with treatments that in many instances did provide short-term benefit. You have probably had a few of these treatments yourself. Let’s go through the treatments.
So how long do stem cell therapy treatments last?
For each person that answer may be considerably different. An older person who remains active may have very long-lasting relief and never need future treatments beyond the initial treatments. People who have very physically demanding jobs or are high level, high endurance athletes who continue the activities that lead them to degenerative joint or spine disease in the first place may have to be given a different expectation of when they may need treatment again.
Now there is science to help us understand why stem cell therapy is considered a long-term treatment by some.
A 2016 study published in the journal Stem cell research & therapy (1) found that Human stems cells injected into a rat joint remained dynamically active for 10 weeks. In other words the stem cells were influencing healing (joint regeneration and cartilage protection) for 10 weeks after the injection. This does not mean that a stem cell treatment lasts for 10 weeks. What these researchers were suggesting is that the stem cells they were studying were continuously promoting healing for 10 weeks and enlisting native stem cells to continue on the work after the initial stem cells injected are used up or reach the end of their usefulness and die off.
How long do the treatments last? 24 months? 5 Years? A study where the knee kept getting better.
A study in the journal Experimental and therapeutic medicine (2) suggests “Stem Cell treatment in patients with knee osteoarthritis showed continual efficacy for 24 months compared with their pre-treatment condition.“ So here the stem cell therapy lasted at least 24 months. The researchers suggested that the knee kept getting better and better and that the effectiveness of the stem cell treatment improved at 12 and 24 months compared with at 3 and 6 months. The research concludes: “(Stem cell) application ameliorated (relieved) the overall outcomes of patients with knee osteoarthritis, including pain relief and functional improvement from basal evaluations, particularly at 12 and 24 months after follow-up.”
In the International journal of rheumatic diseases, (3) doctors found at the end of the five-year follow-up that stem cell treated knees were still better than before treatment.
More recently, a January 2021 study (4) assessed nine random control trial studies to assess longer-term outcomes in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The combined outcome of this research suggested that patients with knee osteoarthritis had improvements in pain and function upwards of 24 months. Note that the study ended at the 24 month follow up. These patients may have had benefit well beyond this.
A November 2022 study (5) however: “Although most recent publications claim that intraarticular injections of MSCs relieve joint pain in the short term, their efficacy remains controversial given that the existing scientific information on MSCs is indecisive.” In other words supportive research maybe of small sample sizes and not definitive. Long-term results like those achived above may not be indictivie of general success.
Summary – How long will stem cell therapy treatments last?
There are many answers to this question. The more realistic answers are:
The treatment will provide long-term relief in many patients. Who are these patients?
- Patients who will allow the treatment to repair damage by following post-treatment guidelines for activity.
- The person who does physically demanding work may need more than two or three treatments to achieve a more long-lasting effect.
- Some people will require supplemental treatment perhaps a year or more later.
In our peer-reviewed published medical studies we demonstrate typic stem cell therapy treatments in our patients.
Please see my articles for these case histories:
- Research: Short-Term Outcomes of Treatment of Hip Osteoarthritis With 4 Bone Marrow Concentrate Injections: A Case Series
- Research: Short-Term Outcomes in Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis With 4 Bone Marrow Concentrate Injections.
In this video, Marc Darrow, MD, JD. is applying stem cell therapy to a patients knee.
1 Li M, Luo X, Lv X, et al. In vivo human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cell tracking after intra-articular delivery in a rat osteoarthritis model. Stem Cell Research & Therapy. 2016;7:160. doi:10.1186/s13287-016-0420-2.
2 Cui G-H, Wang YY, Li C-J, Shi C-H, Wang W-S. Efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells in treating patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: A meta-analysis. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2016;12(5):3390-3400. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3791.
3 Davatchi F, Sadeghi Abdollahi B, Mohyeddin M, Nikbin B. Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy for knee osteoarthritis: 5 years follow-up of three patients. Int. J. Rheum. Dis. 2015 May 20. doi: 10.1111/1756-185X.12670.
4 Qu H, Sun S. Efficacy of mesenchymal stromal cells for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research. 2021 Dec;16(1):1-0.
5 Rodríguez-Merchán EC. Intraarticular injections of mesenchymal stem cells in knee osteoarthritis: a review of their current molecular mechanisms of action and their efficacy. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2022 Nov 29;23(23):14953.