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      HealthWACH: Killing knee pain with stem cells


      Cartilage damage in the knee is something that affects more than 12 million people a year. Medically termed articular cartilage, this firm and rubbery material is a shield that protects the bones and acts as a â??shock absorberâ??. Those who damage their cartilage or have cartilage that is deteriorating will some times experience pain and they will notice a decrease in range of motion in the knee. If the cartilage is not taken care of and worsens, a patient may have to undergo specific treatment or surgery. Articular cartilage damage can also occur in the hip, shoulder, elbow, ankle, and wrist.

      Patients who suffer from articular cartilage damage will notice symptoms of inflammation, a change in range of motion, and stiffness. When the knee becomes inflamed, it may also feel sore and tender. This is the most common indication that the cartilage is being compromised. If a patient takes note of the fact that their range of motion in the knee has changed, there is a good chance that the cartilage is deteriorating and attention needs to be brought to the injury. Lastly, if stiffness occurs in the knee, and it becomes more of a challenge to perform daily functions, rather than a natural movement, then it is time to see a doctor.

      To treat damaged knee cartilage, a patient can opt for a non-surgical or surgical treatment. Decisions are made between patients and doctors and will vary depending on the severity of the injury. If a patient seeks to have surgery or try a non-surgical treatment, he or she will test the following options:

      Non-surgical options:

      • Painkillers
      • Lifestyle Changes
      • A supportive device, like a cane
      Surgical treatment options:

      • Marrow stimulation
      • Mosaicplasty
      • Allograft osteochondral transplantation
      • Autologous chondrocyte implantation

      Stem cells are now being used to treat damaged cartilage in the knees. A study out of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is working on using patientsâ?? own blood vessels to improve the function of cartilage. The stem cells in the blood are inserted in the bone through tiny holes that are created by the surgeon. This stimulates the cartilage and can repair damage. The study will not work for patients who have bone arthritis or who are in need of a knee replacement.