Stem Cells Offer Alternative to Hip Replacement
About 15% of all total hip replacement surgeries performed in the U.S. each year are used to treat a condition called avascular necrosis. In avascular necrosis, bone tissue at the top of the thigh bone—the femoral head—dies, causing hip pain and immobility. However, hip replacements may not be ideal for younger, active patients who are likely to need additional replacement surgeries, increasing the risk for complications.
Dr. Thomas Einhorn, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, is now treating some avascular necrosis patients with a new stem cell technique. According to Dr. Einhorn, stem cells, "become bone-forming cells as they attach to the dead bone and eventually the dead bone will be removed and replaced with live bone."
The procedure takes approximately 1 hour per joint and can be performed on both hips at the same time. Dr. Einhorn removes health bone marrow from the patient's femur, transfers the marrow to a device that concentrates the stem cells, uses a drill to take out some of the damaged bone, and then injects the stem cells into that area. This procedure can be used to treat knee and shoulder joints, as well. So far, success rates are about 65%.
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