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Bone Marrow Concentrate for Degenerative Disc Disease

HanshanHHanshan Posts: 9
edited 07/24/2014 - 6:29 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi folks,

I have the early stages of degeneration at my L5-S1 disc. I am interested in the new procedure of using the body's own stem cells, derived from bone marrow, to regenerate the degenerative disc. Below are some links to a few private practices that are offering this procedure. I am hoping that somebody out there with firsthand experience with this procedure will share their story. Additionally, I am hoping some experts out there who might see this thread will chime in and share their opinion. Many thanks!
Post edited to remove link to doctor and advertisement.....
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  • When you say you're in the early stages of disc degeneration what exactly are the findings on your MRI? If the disc is bulging that can correct itself or it could even be positional. I'm assuming that because you've had an MRI & you're writing here that you're experiencing pain. Is your disc herniated? That's what this therapy is for. There are many conservative, accepted treatments. This is 'experimental', a last step of desperation before fusion surgery. I'm assuming you've tried everything & fusion is the ONLY option left for you. If not, see a spine specialist & follow the usual steps. This is not for the faint of heart!

    I had a consult in Texas with one of the more established specialists in this field. It was a very hard sell. If the disc is too damaged (appears as a thin black line on your MRI) there is nothing that can be done please don't believe it if they say otherwise.
    The therapy involves injecting the stem cell fluid into the core of a badly herniated disc. This will be incredibly painful & will need to be repeated MANY times, over many months. This is not usually covered by insurance because it's experimental. The theory is that the stem cells will help to heal the disc. At this stage of degeneration it has been believed that NOTHING could heal the disc previously.
    There is little or no supporting evidence for this therapy. (I investigated this 6 months ago & things change fast) My specialist could site 4 cases of improvement but the patients were still in the first year of therapy. This has been used successfully in joints & ligaments of other parts of the body.
    Here's where the controversy comes in. Many experts believe that it can possibly work because disc don't have a blood supply & simply can't heal this way. You need to be aware that some have needed emergency fusion surgery as a result of this. If you're headed for fusion anyway this may not be an issue for you but it could make things worse.
    I know someone who had liquid injected into herniated discs & believe they delayed fusion by a year.

    I sort advise from surgeons & specialists. Did tons of research & decided it wasn't for me. Even if (& it's a very big IF) it did work it would only save a couple of my discs. 2 are already completely 'gone'. Surgeons advised it was more likely to have devastating results, repeatedly injecting a disc would damage it even more. I was led to believe that insurance might help with the cost. That wasn't true. It's incredibly painful. Most importantly I couldn't find any long term results that were good.

    As with anything experimental you just need to do the research & decide for yourself. It's a desperate, last-ditch attempt to save a disc. In my opinion it's a 'magic bullet' & I've never found one of them I can have faith in. I hope this helps a bit ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • HanshanHHanshan Posts: 9
    edited 07/25/2014 - 12:28 PM
    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I am only 29 and am at the cusp of establishing my career. My L5-S1 is only mildly degenerated and is only bulging minimally, but this condition has already turned my life upside down. I can no longer play guitar unless I am lying flat on my back. Sitting gives me sciatica. Anyone with lower back problems knows the drill, I am guessing.

    There is a particular stem cell center that has some data they are submitting for peer review. The results are promising - most of the participants had significant improvements after one injection. As everyone who participated in the study had moderate to severe DDD, my thought process was that I would stand to benefit from the procedure that much more.

    I have been doing research on the complications that could arise from such a procedure. I will try and speak with the surgeon and weigh the potential risks and benefits. Thank you again for your post, it has given me much to think about.
  • EnglishGirlEEnglishGirl Posts: 1,825
    edited 07/25/2014 - 2:33 PM
    I'm not a scientist, I could be wrong but I don't think a mildly degenerated disc can cause sciatica. You need something to be pressing on that nerve. That's what caused mine anyway. My disc was very herniated. It looks like it has to be stuck-out quite a long way to hit that nerve. How recent is your last MRI? Before you do anything drastic you need to be very sure that you're dealing with the correct pain generator.

    Now I'm just guessing but maybe if a disc has just lost volume & it's bulging adding some fluid to it might help. Mine have rips in them so leaky! My PM describes disc as being tough like old leather so they're not that fragile. Maybe injecting could help plump yours up a bit. But if it were that simple they'd be doing it all the time!! I don't know.. Let's wait for someone more 'scientific' to join in.

    I'm a literature girl!! I could write a poem about it but if you want real medical advise you're better off asking a spine surgeon. ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • HanshanHHanshan Posts: 9
    edited 07/29/2014 - 2:43 PM

    I spoke with a famous surgeon who offers this procedure today. He has performed the procedure roughly 500 times, the only complications being two instances of a herniated disc (whether the procedure itself actually caused the disc to herniate is a tough call). Of everyone who has received BMC injections at his clinic, only five have requested repeat injections. In all, 70% of patients report 70% improvement of pain levels, which I think is pretty impressive. His data shows that the procedure is in fact capable of rehydrating the disc, though not restoring height.

    Because my disc is in the early stages and I have no annular tears, I think it would hold up well being injected. It might be incredibly painful, but the pressure in the disc evidently dissipates within several days. I know insurance will not cover it, but that is not a concern for me. What is not clear is whether or not insurance would cover any possible complications (ie. infection) since this would be an elective procedure.

    I am seriously thinking about doing this. I plan on getting a second and possibly third opinion from doctors who offer this procedure.
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