Knee Replacement on the Rise in the U.S.

Posted on September 21, 2017


Stem cell therapy is decreasing the need for knee replacements for some individuals.

One Man’s Stem Cell Story

A recent article published by the Columbus Dispatch highlights the story of Dennis Matko. Matko, suffering from painful osteoarthritis of the knee, faced knee joint replacement surgery after years of cortisone shots, physical therapy and other conventional medical treatment stopped working.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects 30 million U.S. adults. Osteoarthritis develops when a joint’s cartilage and bones break down as a result of aging or overuse.

People with osteoarthritis experience pain, stiffness, swelling, decreased range of motion and mobility, and eventual loss of use and disability.

When Matko experienced pain and mobility problems as a result of his osteoarthritis, in a last-ditch attempt to find relief, he turned to stem cell therapy through the OhioHealth hospital system.

During Matko’s procedure, stem cells were taken from the bone marrow of his pelvic bone and injected into his damaged knee.

Stem cells contain powerful growth factors that trigger the body’s self-repair response. Once injected, these growth factors “wake up” latent stem cells and signal them to heal damaged tissue.

In addition to the stem cells, Matko also received an injection of platelet-rich plasma, a concentration of platelets and liquid plasma derived from Matko’s blood. Like stem cells, platelet-rich plasma contains growth factors that facilitate the repair of damaged tissues.

The results of the procedure allowed Matko to avoid knee replacement surgery. He also experienced a reduction in pain, an increase in the range of motion of his knee and an increase in mobility, which allowed him to be more active.

The Need for New Knee Treatment Options

Matko’s situation is not an anomaly. Fourteen million Americans have knee osteoarthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Of this 14 million, many individuals will face knee joint replacement surgery because conventional treatments for their condition have stopped working.

Over 600,000 knee joint replacement surgeries are performed every year in the U.S., according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This number is expected to reach 3 million operations per year by 2030 as the population ages.

In addition to the increasing number of people having knee joint replacements, many people are at risk of having multiple replacement surgeries.

“People in their 50s now have knee replacements. Artificial knee joints last about 20 years, which means these individuals are going to need a new knee at age 70,” Dr. Joel Singer, M.D., said.

Singer’s patients seek out stem cell therapy because conventional treatments like pain killers, anti-inflammatories and steroid injections have stopped working, but they want to avoid the pain and risks of knee joint replacement surgery.

“Many people do choose knee joint replacement surgery because they think that is their last option to be able to walk without pain,” Singer said.

Singer is a New York physician who treats patients with knee osteoarthritis using stem cells taken from the patient’s adipose fat tissue instead of from the bone marrow.

The Case for Fat

Adipose fat stem cells and bone marrow stem cells both have the ability to develop into any of the body’s tissues.

Adipose fat stem cells have an edge over bone marrow cells, Singer said; they are easily accessed for the harvesting procedure through a minimally invasive liposuction procedure, compared to the more invasive bone marrow collection.

Adipose fat stem cells are also available in abundance. One collection of adipose fat stem cells can result in 10 to 40 million fat stem cells, compared to 5,000 to 6 million in one collection of bone marrow stem cells in the same volume.

“Deploying 10 to 40 million stem cells to an injury site means the ability to flood the area with cells ready to repair damage caused by osteoarthritis, injury or illness,” Singer said.

Adipose fat stem cells help facilitate new cartilage and tissue growth in the joint and create synovial fluid. Cartilage and synovial fluid are critical elements for proper and painless joint function.

“When joint health is improved, patients have a reduction in pain and a better quality of life,” Singer said.


The Columbus Dispatch. Patients’ plasma, stem cells help knee problems. The Columbus Dispatch. 26 July 2017.

Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis By the Numbers. Arthritis Foundation. 2017.

Medscape. Knee Replacement Rate Nearly Doubles in US From 2000 to 2010. Medscape. September 2, 2015.



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