Biological treatment options have gained growing interest in recent years. ACP-SVF combines the known benefits of the blood product Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP, also called autologous conditioned plasma – ACP) with the regenerative potential of adipose derived stem cells (also known as autologous stromal vascular fraction - SVF). This combination has been suggested as having a promising approach in the treatment of degenerative joint pain and osteoarthritis. Adipose derived stem cells are easy to collect. In a laboratory setting they can differentiate into different cell lines such as bone, fat, cartilage and muscle and secrete a large number of cytokines and growth factors. Adding PRP/ACP provides a synergistic effect that promotes the proliferation and differentiation of the adipose derived stem cells.
SVF stem cell treatment with the added boost of ACP is best used in patients with arthritis and degenerative joint pain. Patients who have tried and failed conservative treatment and who want to avoid invasive surgery can benefit from treatment with ACP-SVF.
The procedure is carried out in theatre under general anaesthetic. The adipose cells are harvested from the abdomen through one or two keyhole incisions, using a special suction needle. This works similarly to liposuction, but only a very small volume of fat cells (about 60 ml) is required. For the ACP/PRP a small blood sample is obtained from a vein in your arm. Both samples are then prepared in a special centrifuge to concentrate and isolate the best cells, cytokines and growth factors. The final fluid preparation is then injected into the affected joint under x-ray or ultrasound guidance. The whole procedure takes approximately 60 minutes and you should be able to go home later on in the same day.
You can expect mild pain and bruising from the abdomen where the adipose graft is harvested from. The injected joint may ache a bit for a few days, but ice packs and simple painkillers will help.
Since the injection only contains fluid and cells from your own body, there should be no major side effects. You may experience mild pain/irritation for a few days and there may be some bruising.
Infection is a very rare complication following the treatment. If you notice increasing redness, swelling and pain 3-10 days following the procedure you should seek advice from the surgeon, your GP or a Doctor in A&E. Most infections can be treated with a course of Antibiotics, rarely is further surgery required to deal with an infection. Since only your own body’s tissue and blood is used, there is no risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases from unknown donors.
Perforation of the abdomen/inner organs is an extremely rare complication during the harvesting of the adipose cells. The surgeon carrying out the harvesting procedure has many years of experience in this procedure and the risk is therefore very low.
Bruising: Mild bruising is common in the area where the fat is harvested. This will disappear with time and is not of any major concern.
ACP-SVF is a relatively new treatment. The scientific literature and research so far demonstrate that the procedure is safe and effective with very good outcomes. However, as with many other treatments, there is no success guarantee. You may not notice an improvement in your symptoms straight away, which may take up to 2 months. During that time, you should experience a slow improvement in pain levels. According to the research literature further improvements can be expected for 12-24 months from a single injection. The treatment can be repeated safely if required.
There is sadly no cure for arthritis, however treatment with stem cells can improve pain and function in joints affected with arthritis. Some research trials have shown an improvement in cartilage quality; however, this cannot cure the arthritis itself.
You can mobilise as pain allows straight away. You can ice the joint for a few minutes several times a day if necessary. Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous work as well as sporting activities for 4-6 weeks to support the healing process.
You will require Physiotherapy to support the rehab process, this will be an integral part of your treatment. Our Physio Lisa Barrington-Ford will discuss your rehab needs with you and will liaise with your own Physio if required.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID's): NSAID's can suppress the effects of the growth factors in the ACP-PRP injection. You should therefore stop taking any NSAID’s for 7 days before and after the injection. Commonly used NSAID’s are Voltarol, Ibuprofen, Nurofen and Naproxen.
Please see also our stem cell FAQ’s for further information here.