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Stem cells have emerged in recent years as a potential treatment for many types of injuries, including sports injuries, repetitive use injuries and injuries related to aging (like arthritis). Derived from your own body, stem cells pose no risk of allergic reaction or rejection, and they also work to help the body repair itself naturally, making them a popular option for men and women of all activity levels and with an wide array of injuries.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells have the potential to become other types of cells; including bone, cartilage, and connective tissue. That ability makes them especially important in treating damage caused by traumatic injuries, repetitive use injuries, and age-related wear and tear, including joint damage due to arthritis and cartilage loss. In stem cell treatment, cells are harvested from the patient's own body - usually from fatty tissue, bone marrow or blood.

Dr. Van Thiel uses stem cells taken from a sample of the patient's own blood or bone marrow, which means harvesting cells is as simple as having a little blood drawn from your vein or bone marrow taken from the middle of a bone. Then the cells are processed before being reintroduced to your body at the site of injury. Dr. Van Thiel uses two methods to reintroduce stem cells to treat orthopedic injuries: He may reinject them using guidance from diagnostic imaging to ensure the cells reach the specific area of damage, or he may apply them directly to damaged joint tissue during a during minimally-invasive arthroscopic surgical procedure. If you're a candidate for stem cell treatment, Dr. Van Thiel will determine which approach is best based on the type and extent of your injury and other factors. In either case, the stem cell procedure can be completed in a single outpatient treatment or surgery.

How do stem cells work?

Stem cells are like the repairmen of the body, ready to jump in and “become” other types of cells to repair and restore damaged tissues. Still, as important as they are for tissue regeneration, they don't act alone. In order to “turn into” other types of cells, they need to be acted on by another factor, like a protein. These proteins initiate a series of changes in the stem cell that “tell” the cell what type of cell to become. This process is referred to as differentiation. In orthopedics, stem cell therapy is most commonly used to treat injuries to the ligaments, tendons or cartilage tissue that lines joints. In addition to forming new cells, stem cells can also stimulate damaged tissues to repair themselves and they can help reduce inflammation that can hinder the normal healing processes.

How long will it be before I notice the results of stem cell therapy?

It takes awhile for stem cells to differentiate, settle down, and start repairing and restoring damaged areas of tissue. In most cases, repair and regeneration takes about two to three months to complete, but most people begin to notice improvements before that time.

Could you benefit from stem cell joint treatment?

Stem cells represent the cutting-edge of medical treatment for sports injuries and joint damage due to arthritis and repetitive use. If you'd like to learn more about stem cell therapy and whether it could be a good choice for you, call OrthoIllinois at and schedule a consultation with Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel.

Dr. Van Thiel treats patients from all over Wisconsin and Illinois including Rockford, Elgin, Huntley, Dekalb, Crystal Lake, Barrington, McHenry, and Beloit.

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