Stem Cell Therapy for the Spine

Stem Cell Therapy offers hope for many patients with many conditions, but this is not true for spine patients. And while some spine doctors do inject stems cells into the spine of their patients in hopes that it will help, there is no scientific data to support the efficacy of such a treatment, in fact it may worsen the patient's condition.

Generalized stem cell injections or injections into discs with tears can create or enhance existing spinal or neuroforamenal stenosis and/or encourage an autofusion. Stem cells add bone to existing bone, which can further reduce the space for the nerves of the spine, thereby compressing these nerves (the rami, spinal cord or cauda equina). We see this phenomenon in fusion surgeries, where surgeons inject bone stimulants into the fusion site to ensure the completion of the fusion. And there is no evidence to suggest stem cell injection into the disc will relaminate the annulus of a spinal disc. Without repair of the disc annulus the dessication of a degenerative disc will continue. These stem cell disc injections can also leak out of the disc if there is an annular tear.

If you are considering stem cell therapy ask your doctor to show you an IDE study, which concludes the disc height is reestablished and disc dessication is no longer present. Disc dessication will not occur if the annulus is repaired. Reports of pain relief are unreliable, because of the halo effect and the instability of the spine with degenerative disc disease. As many patients already know, spine pain can come and go, and this pain inconsistency is a direct result of spinal instability.

Consequently, Prof. Dr. Bertagnoli does not recommend stem cell therapy of the spine. This recommendation excludes therapy for spinal cord injuries, which is still quite experimental.