Lipogems is a stem cell treatment made from your own body’s fat. The fat is harvested from your abdomen and then washed and fragmented in a special closed-circuit process. The resulting preparation is then injected into the affected joint.
Harvesting, washing and filtering abdominal fat produces a fluid with a high concentration of cells called pericytes. Pericytes are stem cell precursors. That means pericytes can transform into stem cells. These stem cells have the unique ability to develop into different cell types like articular cartilage, resulting in less pain and better function in patients with degenerative joint pain and osteoarthritis.
Lipogems is used for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Patients who have tried and failed conservative treatment and who want to avoid invasive surgery can benefit from treatment with Lipogems.
You will be taken to theatre and the procedure is undertaken under general anaesthetic. A special needle is used to harvest fat from your belly. It will then take a short while to wash and filter the tissue sample. The concentrated Lipogems fluid is then injected into the affected joint. This will be done using x-ray imaging to guide the injection into the joint. The whole procedure will take approximately one hour. You should be able to go home soon after.
The injected joint can be mildly painful for a couple of days. The donor site on the abdomen can be painful as well. Icepacks and simple painkillers will keep you comfortable.
Risks and complications are rare:
Infection: This is a very rare complication following the injection. If you notice increasing redness, swelling and pain 3-10 days following the injection you should contact the ward, see your GP or attend the A&E department. 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 bone marrow is used, there is no risk of transmission of blood-borne diseases from unknown donors.
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.
Pain: You will have mild to moderate pain in the area where the fat was harvested from your belly. This should settle in the days following the procedure. The injected joint may be mildly uncomfortable/irritable for a few days.
Needle penetration into the abdomen: This is very rare. The surgeon harvesting the abdominal fat has many years of experience with this process.
Lipogems is a new treatment. Although there is good scientific evidence to support its use, there is no success guarantee. According to the published literature about 80% of all patients can be expected to benefit from the treatment.
Most patients notice an improvement in pain levels for at least 9 months following the treatment with Lipogems. Some patients feel the improvement for much longer.
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.
Combining the benefits of the blood product PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) with the benefits of Lipogems can enhance the benefits of the treatment. Adding PRP provides a synergistic effect that promotes the proliferation and differentiation of the adipose derived stem cells. Our specialists at the Orthobiologics Clinic are happy to discuss this in detail with you.