People suffering from chronic joint pain and facing the prospect of surgery have an alternative treatment option with SVF (Stromal Vascular Fraction) stem cell therapy at Stem Cell Center of Georgia offered exclusively by Ageless Wellness Center of Peachtree City.
Stem cells are baby cells that can turn into any tissue in the body, including cartilage and bone, as well as muscle and nerves, explains Dr. Jamie Walraven of Ageless Wellness. “Any disease process that is inflammatory, autoimmune or degenerative can be helped by stem cells, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis,” Walraven says. “These can cause degeneration, swelling, inflammation, and clicking in the joints causing crippling pain. It often progresses to limited range of motion and mobility.”
Linda Faulkner, Certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Ageless Wellness, says the treatment is recommended for anyone who has difficulty getting up steps, standing from a chair, walking, or bending due to osteoarthritis.
“Anything that you use your knees for that causes pain limits your quality of life,” Faulkner says. “We get patients who want to be able to go to Disney World again with their grandkids.”
Ageless Wellness uses adipocyte derived stem cells harvested from the patient’s own fat, performing a mini liposuction to obtain about a cup and a half, Walraven explains. The remaining process takes about an hour and a half.
“After that we have 8 to 12 ml of stem cells plus growth factors, a stem cell soup if you will,” Walraven says. “We redeploy the stem cells into the joints and via IV to affect a positive outcome of regeneration of the cartilage, bone and synovial fluid in that knee. This is all done in our office in a procedure that takes approximately three hours from start to finish.”
In patients with osteoarthritis, the SVF stem cell treatments have the potential to re-grow cartilage, Faulkner says.
So far, insurance companies have been reluctant to cover joint SVF stem cell therapy, Walraven says, and that’s unfortunate because there really is no downtime to the procedure.
“With knee surgery you’re out of work for a good two weeks. You’re in rehab for a couple of months,” Walraven says. Further, if you look at SVF stem cell treatment versus a knee surgery that insurance will pay for, there’s a large out-of-pocket deductible.
“Insurance won’t pay for it until they figure out that it saves them money,” she says. “Knee replacement surgery usually isn’t recommended until the condition is severe, because a knee replacement only lasts 10-15 years.”
The ideal candidate is someone who either doesn’t want to go through surgery or rehab, or can’t have surgery for whatever reason, Walraven explains. “Maybe they’re a poor surgical candidate or they’re too young, a 40- or 50-year-old weekend warrior that was an athlete back in the day but blew out their knees and hobbles around with pain.”
That describes one Ageless Wellness patient named Eric, a policeman who was facing knee replacement surgery.
“He had bone-on-bone in his right knee and wasn’t able to exercise or run anymore during his workouts,” Faulkner says. “He presented with pain and was limited at work because of bending. We did SVF stem cell treatment and four months in did an enhancement with platelet-rich plasma.”
At 11 months, Ageless Wellness took new x-rays of Eric’s knee that showed increased joint space and regenerated cartilage. He no longer suffers pain and is now able to exercise. Ageless Wellness is part of the Cell Surgical Network, which is operating under patient-funded clinical investigational research protocols. Patients are followed through a research database for five years. So far, 5,000 joint procedures have been done with no significant complications.
“We can’t ever guarantee results, but overall patients do exceptionally well,” Walraven says. “The majority have decreased pain and significant improvement in symptoms after SVF stem cell therapy.”
Stem Cell Center of Georgia is located within Ageless Wellness Center at 1000 Commerce Drive, Suite 300, Peachtree City. For more information or to make an appointment, call 678-364-8414 or visit their website at agelesswellnessptc.com.