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Failed Back Surgery? Intradiscal Stem Cell Treatment May Be Right for You

Posted at 4:27 PM on Jul 23, 2019


If you suffer from back pain, you are not alone. More than 30 million Americans suffer also have this issue. This leads to more that 264 million lost work days each year in the United States. The spine is a complicated mechanism, and a failure in a disc, joint, or other part of the back can lead to pain that harms your quality of life.

Some people choose surgeries such as spinal fusion to try and alleviate their back pain. Like all invasive surgeries, there are risks to this, such as nerve damage, infections, and other side effects. There is also the risk that the spinal surgery just won’t work.

While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number, it is estimated that about 20% of back surgeries fail. In some cases, patients have multiple surgeries and yet still experience pain. Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is recognized by doctors as a real issue for many patients.

Causes of Low Back Pain Surgery Failure

If you experience back surgery failure, it does not necessarily mean that your doctor misdiagnosed the initial problem or made errors during surgery. There are several risk factors that can result in a poor outcome following back surgery:

  • Smoking, which negatively affects blood circulation
  • Formation of scar tissue
  • Persistent problems caused by arthritis
  • Nerve damage
  • Pressure from narrowing within the spine

Your particular back problems may also have advanced to the point that surgery is no longer an effective method to treat pain. This may be the case for specific types of trauma to the back or if you have arthritis that affects your middle or lower spine.

Can Intradiscal Stem Cell Treatment Help You?

The use of stem cells is part of the growing field of regenerative medicine in which doctors use human tissues and cells as a part of treatment. Regenerative medicine provides new options to patients that surgery hasn't helped.

An emerging procedure called intradiscal stem cell treatment, performed by Twin Cities Pain and Regenerative Medicine in Edina, offers a chance at relief for people who have had a failed back surgery or who wish to try a non-surgical option first.

The best candidates for our intradiscal stem cell treatments experience chronic disc or facet joint issues. However, patients with specific acute injuries from trauma such as whiplash have also had success with the procedure.

Degenerative disc disease and spinal facet disease are two chronic conditions that cause debilitating back pain in patients. What are they, and what are the benefits of stem cell treatment for these conditions?

Degenerative Disc Disease

As people age, the discs in their backs start to deteriorate. These discs do not have the ability to regenerate. This can lead to problems with bending, flexing, and twisting. It can also cause severe pain.

Doctors diagnose degenerative disc disease when they are unable to find another cause for back pain, and there is the presence of disc deterioration. Stem cell treatment can minimize pain in these patients without the long, painful recovery process of an invasive surgery.

Spinal Facet Disease

Facet joints connect the different levels of the spine. They help to stabilize the discs and the body of the spine. These joints are covered with cartilage to aid in movement.

When the cartilage on facet joints is damaged, it can cause joint rubbing, leading to back pain. Stem cell treatment at our clinic, alongside radiofrequency lesioning, has proven successful in relieving pain due to this issue.

Intradiscal Stem Cell Treatment

Invasive surgeries for all of these issues run the risk of failure. Rather than undergoing even more back surgeries, some patients have found intradiscal stem cell treatment to be a safe, effective alternative.

During intradiscal stem cell treatment, doctors inject stem cells directly into the affected discs or facet joints. These cells are taken from your own bone marrow. Doctors will verify with you that injections are going directly into the affected disc or joint, as injections into surrounding muscles are not effective.

Injected stem cells may have the ability to turn into other types of cells to help repair and restore damaged areas. Stem cells also have the ability to reproduce as they do their jobs inside the body. Potential outcomes of stem cell injections into discs or facet joints include:

  • Increased disc height
  • Improved hydration
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Pain reduction

Aside from the outcomes, there are additional benefits to stem cell treatments as an alternative to back surgery, particularly for people who have already had a failed low back surgery:

  • It is minimally-invasive
  • It is done on an outpatient basis
  • There is no difficult, long recovery
  • You may see results within days

Stem cell therapy does not work for everyone. Some studies have shown it to be a helpful treatment. However, at this time, the FDA has not approved it as a treatment for musculoskeletal conditions.

Once you have made the decision to try intradiscal stem cell treatment, it is important that you choose a legitimate medical facility for your procedure. The FDA has warned that there are facilities that do not harvest cells properly or that do not administer treatments in the proper way.

There are only a handful of treatment centers in Minnesota that use an FDA-approved method of harvesting your stem cells and injecting them to treat low back pain. At Twin Cities Pain & Regenerative Medicine, we safely harvest your own stem cells for use in treating your disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, or facet joint problems.

We use state-of-the-art equipment during our stem cell treatment procedures to ensure that the injections are placed in the proper area of the disc or joint.

A study of our patients between March 2017 and November 2018 showed a 42% reduction in back pain after only one month following intradiscal stem cell treatment. That number jumped to 62% after 6 months. Of these patients, 85% reported that they would recommend the treatment to a friend.

If you are suffering from low or middle back pain and have already have one or more failed surgeries, please contact us. We can provide you with more information about the viability of stem cell treatment for your particular condition.