Regenerative Medicine

Physicians at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta are among a select group of physicians around the country to offer Stem Cell therapy and other regenerative medical therapies for the relief of osteoarthritis (OA) pain and chronic tendonitis.

Patients may benefit from a unique non-surgical procedure using the patient’s own stem cells and growth factors that may help repair damaged tissue, reduce pain and promote healing. During the procedure, the physician takes bone marrow cells from the back of a patient’s hip and following minimal on site processing of these cells, they are then injected into the patient’s joint or tendon. Since the cells are from the patient’s own body there is no risk of rejection.

A regenerative medicine technique can also be performed with a patient’s own fat taken from the stomach or side and injected into the joints to reduce painful symptoms of osteoarthritis.

The treatments offered are not research or a clinical trial.

Not all patients are candidates for stem cell or the fat graft treatment.

Please see the list of frequently asked questions below to determine if you are a candidate.

Please review the Questions and Answers to learn more. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us at orthostemcells@emoryhealthcare.org

Questions and Answers

These types of therapies are primarily for painful joints. These injections provide a non-surgical treatment option to provide long-lasting relief from chronic joint pain. The injections are performed under ultrasound guidance, as needed, to ensure proper placement of the injection.

The type of treatment or treatments the patient receives is determined on a case by case basis by our expert physicians in consultation with the patient.

In general, these treatments are advised for patients who have pain secondary to moderate osteoarthritis in the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle, or thumb, where there is not complete collapse of the joint space and not “bone on bone” changes. We also do stem cells occasionally for soft tissue injuries such as tears or severe tendinosis.

  • Patients with a blood borne Cancer (such as lymphoma or leukemia), not in
    remission for at least 5 years
  • Patients undergoing treatment for other malignancies or blood borne diseases
  • Patients with an active infection
  • Patient who are on a high dose of Coumadin or other blood thinner 
  • Patients with multiple medical issues may not be good candidates (low testosterone, low vitamin D, Hypothyroidism, Diabetes, smoker). 

**This a partial list; there may be other conditions that limit your stem cell candidacy.

Most commonly injections are for larger joints, such as hips and knees, but we also treat shoulders, ankles, and smaller joints in the hand or feet with these therapies.

Stem cell treatments are also an option for chronic tendon issues that have been resistant to platelet rich plasma (PRP) and other treatments. These are typically done in the rotator cuff, lateral elbow and Achilles tendons. Currently, we do not treat any neck or spinal conditions with stem cell therapy.

There is some limited data suggesting an ability to regenerate a portion of the cartilage that may be worn down in the patient’s joint.  Whether or not the cartilage regenerates has little correlation with relief of pain. In cases of more advanced arthritis, we are less likely to see any cartilage regeneration.

Our experience is that most patients will have significant relief of pain around 1-2 months after the procedure.

Patients typically improve for up to 6 months following the procedure. There are patients who will not see any improvement from a stem cell procedure even though we have a screening process that helps identify patients that are good candidates. Overall, 75-80% of our patients have had significant pain relief and improved function of the joint following the procedure(s). There have not been many studies of the long term outcomes of stem cell procedures reported in the literature although the safety of these procedures has been tracked for many years with few complications reported.

Typically, the stem cell procedure is only done one time and does not need to be repeated. There are times when a Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injection will be done 1-3 months after the stem cell injection is performed. Our protocol is continually evolving, so this is ultimately decided on a case-by-case basis.

A patient may fly home the same day (if the patient is not the pilot). Patients should be aware there will be increased pain/discomfort after the procedure. Patients driving home should have a driver to take them home following the procedure.

The cost can vary, but is usually around $3,000 to inject one body area and $5000 for two areas. The final cost of the treatment(s) will ultimately be determined by what particular injections are being done.

Stem cell therapy and fat grafts are typically not covered by your insurance company. If you decide you want to explore either of these treatment options, you can first speak with one of our financial counselors about payment options. He or she will work with you to determine if your insurance will pay for the treatment or if you will need to pay out of pocket for the treatment.

Our physicians provides these treatments to our patients at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you live within 3 hours of Atlanta, we will schedule a consultation for an appointment to review your radiology films (x-rays), conduct a physical exam, and determine if you are a good candidate or not.

If you live more than 3 hours away, please work with your local health care professional to send us the following:

Download and print this form. Complete it and include with the other records you are sending. Recent x-rays, no more than a few months old, are required. Please see below for the type of x-ray views needed for the effected body parts.

  • Hip - Standing AP pelvis and frog lateral
  • Knee - Standing bilateral AP and lateral
  • Ankle - Standing AP, lateral and oblique
  • Shoulder - Grashey and axillary lateral
  • Thumb - AP, lateral and oblique
  • Recent MRI if available, no more than a few months old
  • Medical records (only pertaining to your injury for which you are seeking treatment)

Send your images and records to us for review - please include your name, address, phone number and email address. We will contact you with our recommendation within 7-14 business days of receiving your records.

Send your documents and images to:

Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center
Attn: Ortho Stem Cells
59 Executive Park South, Suite 1000
Atlanta, GA 30329