There’s a lot of attention paid to knee arthritis and stem cell injections, but much less to shoulder problems. We’ve just published the world’s largest registry experience with precisely guided stem cell injections for conditions including severe arthritis and rotator cuff tears. Here’s a quick run down of that new work.
Unlike knee replacement, shoulder replacement surgery is known for pretty poor outcomes. Why? The shoulder is a shallow joint with great mobility. Replicating that mobility in an artificial joint can be problematic. In addition, since replacing the joint does little to address chronic issues in the rotator cuff muscle, many patients are still left with pain. Finally, as one recent study showed, replacing shoulder joints in younger and active patients under 55 is fraught with high failure rates (40% by 5 years).
On the other hand, if you have little arthritis and just a bad rotator cuff tendon (torn or frayed), then surgery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For example, in one recent study, shoulder rotator cuff surgery wasn’t able to beat the outcomes of just plain old physical therapy. In addition, many times range of motion doesn’t return after rotator cuff surgery. Finally, retear rates are high after the rotator cuff tear has been surgically repaired.
Our newly published shoulder stem cell study used the Regenexx-SD protocol and data collected at many Regenexx sites around the country on 115 procedures performed on 102 patients. Of note, the changes in the DASH score (the functional questionnaire commonly used for shoulder surgery studies) of approximately 19 points was almost double the minimum difference in this score. Good changes in pain and percentage improvement were reported despite many of these patients being shoulder replacement candidates.
The upshot? Shoulder replacement surgery is a big procedure whose results aren’t all that great. Rotator cuff surgery results aren’t spectacular either. We see great promise in skipping the invasive surgery altogether and just getting a precise injection of your own stem cells and our recently published paper adds more confidence in that approach!