Orthobiologics Part 2 – Bone Marrow Aspirate Therapy

When the human body is injured, a natural healing response is triggered almost immediately. Stems cells and growth factors are activated to protect the injured area and repair the damage. Scientists are continually investigating new ways to amplify the body’s repair processes. For instance, many people are familiar with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, a type of regenerative medicine that uses platelets taken from a patient’s own blood to jumpstart a cascade of healing.

Bone marrow aspirate therapy is another emerging orthobiologic that is showing promise in addressing a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. This innovative non-surgical treatment is derived from a patient’s own bone marrow, a soft substance found in the center cavities of most bones. Bone marrow continually produces immature stem cells, which later develop into specialized cells, such as red blood cells that carry oxygen, white blood cells that prevent infection, and platelets that control bleeding.

Unlike other cells throughout the body, stem cells are “undifferentiated,” which means they have the ability to replicate themselves and mature into different types of cells to match their surrounding tissues. When injected into an injury site, bone marrow aspirate can accelerate the body’s natural repair processes, reduce pain and inflammation, and promote the healing of damaged tissues.

How Can Bone Marrow Aspirate Therapy Be Used?

Also known as bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) therapy, this cutting-edge regenerative medicine procedure can treat and slow the progression of osteoarthritis of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, ankle, and foot. It can also be used to promote the healing of:

  • High-grade tendon injuries in the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee, ankle, and foot
  • Full and partial rotator cuff tears
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis
  • Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis)
  • Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis)
  • De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
  • Hip labral tears
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Greater trochanteric bursitis
  • Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome
  • Meniscus tears
  • Sprained and torn ligaments, including the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
  • Patellar tendinitis
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Nonhealing fractures (nonunions)
  • Strained and torn muscles
  • Wounds
  • Damaged articular cartilage

Bone marrow aspirate therapy may be considered for a patient who has tried traditional conservative treatments—such as rest, activity modifications, assistive walking devices, physical therapy, medications, and corticosteroid injections—without achieving their desired result. BMAC may also be a good option for a patient who is not a surgical candidate or would prefer to avoid or delay elective surgery.

What Does Bone Marrow Aspirate Therapy Involve?

Bone marrow concentrate therapy is a relatively straightforward procedure that can be completed in an outpatient setting in approximately two hours. It can also be performed in conjunction with a surgical procedure to promote a faster recovery from the surgery. In most cases, the liquid aspirate is harvested from the curved ridge of the patient’s hip bone (posterior iliac crest), which usually has a rich supply of bone marrow. After sterilizing the injection site and administering a local anesthetic to numb the area, the physician will insert a long needle with a suctioned syringe attached to the end to harvest the sample.

Next, the physician will pass the collected sample through a filter and place it in a rapidly spinning device (centrifuge), which will separate the bone marrow into its various components, including plasma, red and white blood cells, platelets, and stem cells. The physician will then place the resulting high concentration of stem cells, growth factors, and anti-inflammatory proteins into a sterile syringe and, guided by real-time ultrasound imaging, precisely inject it into the targeted injury site.

Once injected, the platelets may release growth factors that guide the differentiation of the regenerative stem cells, prompting them to develop into the specific types of cells needed to repair and regenerate the surrounding damaged tissues, such as bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Bone marrow aspirate therapy has a minimal risk of complications, and because the stem cells are obtained from the patient’s own body, there is no risk of an allergic reaction or tissue rejection. The recovery time and outcome can vary depending on the type of tissue treated and the severity of the damage. Within a month or two, many patients begin to see improvement in terms of their comfort, strength, and stability. Because BMAC therapy works by addressing the underlying cause of pain rather than simply masking the pain itself, most patients require only one treatment. However, if a patient achieves significant relief that plateaus in a few months, a second treatment may be considered.

Talk With a Sports Medicine Specialist

Bone marrow aspirate therapy can potentially harness the power of stem cells to create new tissues for regenerative medicine. If you have osteoarthritis or an orthopedic injury, you may benefit from this innovative treatment. You can discuss orthobiologics with an experienced sports medicine physician at Florida Medical Clinic. Contact us at 813-979-6978 to request an appointment at our New Tampa office, which is conveniently located at 15285 Amberly Drive.

About W. Andrew Sprouse, MD

Dr. Sprouse is a primary care sports medicine physician who is passionate about keeping active bodies in motion. He takes a special interest in orthobiologics, including bone marrow aspirate therapy, PRP injections, and adipose-derived stem cell therapy. These advanced non-surgical treatments use cells that are harvested from a patient’s own body to reduce inflammation and stimulate the healing of orthopedic injuries.


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