We have been using stem cells as an ankle arthritis treatment since approximately 2006. In that time, we’ve seen many patients recover ankle function and have less pain after injections of their own stem cells even when they were told that their only hope was an ankle fusion. Looks like the world is now beginning to catch up, also noticing that stem cells are a viable ankle arthritis treatment.
An excellent paper involving both small and large osteochondral lesions of the main ankle joint was just published. What’s interesting about this one is that it involves older patients who had surgical micro fracture (MF) of the ankle arthritic lesion with or without a stem cell injection. While the older patients receiving stem cells + MF had less pain and better function than those who just got micro fracture, what was really fascinating was that patients with larger lesions who usually fail micro fracture did well with MF + stem cells! This is very consistent with our own data showing excellent results in many patients with larger cartilage lesions of the talus. However, almost all of our patients skipped the MF surgery and just had a simple injection!
The upshot? After many years and after being one of the first in the world to treat ankle arthritis with stem cells, we’re glad to see the research of other physicians support what we’ve seen clinically for years. It reminds a bit of a mantra that came from a movie about the CDC and the AIDS crisis. All the CDC scientists are in a room about to discuss the cases they have found and whether they can show that these bizarre diseases showing up in San Francisco are due to a virus. The lead doctor walks in shouting, “What do we think? What do we know? What can we prove?” We’ve “known” for awhile that stem cells are helpful in many ankle arthritis patients. We have set out to prove it by collecting registry data and will be publishing more of that this summer. It’s very gratifying that others have seen the same things and are out there also trying to move stem cells for ankle arthritis from “know” to “prove”.