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Stem cell treatment providing relief for back pain sufferers

January 16, 2017

It’s estimated eight in 10 people suffer back pain at some point. For some, it becomes debilitating. In an effort to avoid surgery, some doctors and patients are turning to regenerative stem cell therapy for relief.

“It’s amazing to be my age and have all the problems I do with my back,” pointed out Whitney Kantrowitz.

Kantrowitz is just 39 years old, but she’s been hobbled by two degenerative discs in her back. This mom of two is hoping to avoid surgery, so she’s about to undergo regenerative stem cell therapy.

“Stem cells seem a lot easier because it’s my own. I’m very young. My skin and body are very healthy, so I’m hoping this will work,” she explained.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Edward Scheid will do the procedure. It takes less than an hour while the patient is awaked but sedated.

“Basically stem cells are for lack of a better description, baby cells that haven’t yet decided what they want to be when they grow up,” pointed out Scheid. “We can take stem cells from the iliac crest and then inject them or deliver them into damaged discs. The stem cells get into the disc environment, take cues from that environment and then and regenerate disc tissue.”

The stem cells are taken from a few spots in the patient’s hip and then after careful determination for exact placement, injected into the damaged discs. The key is performing this first procedure before the disc becomes too damaged.

“Healthy disc, degenerative disc. That would be appropriate for stem cell. However, as the process progresses you end up with this,” warned Scheid, pointing to a diagram of a damaged disc. “Simply injecting stem cells is not going to completely inflate the bones apart. So if you wait too long, unfortunately stem cell is not going to be too effective.”

He says follow up studies a year or two out show good results when used on the appropriate patient. It generally takes a few months before patients get relief as it takes time for the stem cells to do their job. Kantrowitz will have to take it easy for the first two weeks post treatment. If it works but then she begins to have pain again, the procedure can be repeated.

This treatment is considered experimental by insurance companies so they won’t pay for it.

Dr. Scheid tells NewsChannel 13’s Benita Zahn the average cost is $2,500 for the first disc, another $500 for additional discs being treated. 

WNYT Segment


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