Stem Cell Assisted Spinal Surgery
The decision to have spine surgery is obviously one to consider thoughtfully, as the failure rate is considerable. The usage of biologics, specifically stem cells, is becoming more common to help the surgery site heal faster.
The healing site for spine surgery may need to grow bone, cartilage, disc, ligament or a combination of tissues. Thankfully, since stem cells are a “master cell”, they maintain the ability to differentiate into any of these tissues as needed.
In addition, the regenerative materials used in spine surgery also contain growth factors in addition to stem cells. A growth factor is analogous to a “construction foreman”, with the role of directing the patient’s own body to participate in the regenerative process by bringing in the body’s own stem cells and healing elements.
Recent advancements in stem cell-based technologies for both spine fusion and the treatment of degenerative disc disease is promising and indicative that stem cells are now playing a major role clinically.
For spinal fusion procedures, instrumentation is placed solely to hold the bones in place while the biology promotes those bones to fuse together. This “welding” of the bones together may not occur, with the eventuality that the instrumentation will break. Patients then experience increased pain, disability, and need a revision procedure.
The use of regenerative biologics with stem cells facilitates spinal fusion. As “blank slate” cells, stem cells are able to differentiatie into whatever type of cell is needed. A lot of the decision for differentiation depends on the environment in which the stem cells are placed. In the case of patients who have factors working against them such as being smokers, or malnutrition, diabetes, etc, the usage of stem cell biologics may make the difference in a successful procedure versus the need for a revision.
During a discectomy procedure, the material removed from the patient’s disc space is not going to regenerate by itself. All too often, patients are left with degenerative disc disease and back pain as a result. The disc itself in an adult has minimal blood supply and a very slow metabolism. This means healing is minimal by itself.
Insertion of biologic material with stem cells helps facilitate disc regeneration by amping up the metabolic activity. The biologic material not only repairs disc by itself, but also calls in one’s own body’s regenerative elements to help with the process. This regenerative material may help repair the damaged disc and prevent the evolution of future back pain and the need for a subsequent spinal procedure later on!