In Search of a Cure… Stem Cell Injections

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

(Part 1 in a series chronicling Dr. Creager’s personal experience with knee injury and stem cell injections)

Have you ever wanted to go back in time and make a minor adjustment to your day? If so, you’re not alone. I was working out at the gym, letting off steam, by punching and kicking our 100-pound heavy bag. I landed a beautiful round kick to the heavy bag and suddenly felt an odd sensation in my knee. I lowered my leg and tried to walk it off albeit my knee began to shift and slide – feeling unstable. Later the knee started to swell and hurt especially after I slid on the stairs and landed on my knee. My wish to rewind the clock began as well as my search for curing my knee pain.

I was convinced that I had torn my meniscus (a C-shaped disc that cushions the knee) and my posterior cruciate ligament (a tough band of tissue that provides stability). My knee clicked going up stairs and during squats, just how a torn meniscus would present, and my knee felt very unstable like it would if I had torn a ligament. I made an appointment with my primary care physician and he agreed I had definitely injured my knee, so he ordered magnetic resonance imaging, also known as an MRI.

Knee diagramAfter waiting several days to receive the radiology report I was surprised and elated to find out that my meniscus and ligaments were healthy and intact. However, I was saddened the knee cartilage was torn – prematurely aging my knee by more than 20 years. Surgical management options for cartilage defects (torn or thinning cartilage), whether from trauma or degenerative changes, are few with limited success. I realized that even though I’ve worked out most of my life keeping my body as healthy as possible, I may be faced with a total knee replacement like my grandmother or bone-on-bone knee pain like my mother.

Fortunately, I recently treated a patient who underwent a cutting-edge treatment, a stem cell injection harvested from her own adipose (fat) tissue, for her partial rotator cuff and labral (cartilage of the shoulder joint) tears. For months, she was unable to raise her arm. Within a week of the stem cell injection she could raise her arm overhead. Amazing! I had never seen this before in my 20+ years of being a physical therapist.

This piqued my interest regarding stem cell injections and hence forward began researching the topic. In January of this year researchers, Koh and colleagues, documented improvement in patients with knee osteoarthritis who were injected with adipose-derived stem cells. The participants showed significant reduction in pain, significant improvement in function and MRI documented cartilage growth. Furthermore, there have been no reports of serious adverse effects in the scientific literature for
stem cell treatment. It is minimally invasive, performed on an outpatient basis, with little to no down time from work or recreational activities.

Faced with a surgical option with limited success or a stem cell injection with a favorable outcome, I unequivocally decided for the latter. Serendipitously, Loveland has one of the few physicians in Northern Colorado able to offer adipose-derived stem cell injections, Patrick Mallory from Mallory Family Wellness.

Although I’m unable to go back in time and change the event that led to my knee injury, I am moving forward with a cutting-edge treatment for my knee. Friday I will have my knee injected by Dr. Patrick Mallory with my own stem cells. If you’d like to join me in my journey for a cure or would like to ascertain the outcome, please read my blog posted on as I share my experience. (Read Part 2.)

[As seen in the Berthoud Surveyor.]