Stem Cell Alternative to Spinal Fusion & Lumbar Disc Replacement Surgery

Herniated, bulging and degenerative discs, along with many other low back pain conditions, will affect 84% of the population at some point in their life. It is the leading cause of disability and the number one cause of missed work days, which often leads to invasive surgery such as spinal fusion or disc replacement. Many of these surgeries can be avoided by alternatively undergoing a state-of-the-art stem cell procedure.

Nearly one third of all work related disability is due to low back pain. The treatment of low back pain, which is most commonly caused by degenerative disc disease, often begins with conservative treatments that include rest, pain medications and physical therapy, and frequently ends with invasive surgery. The two most common surgeries for the treatment of degenerative disc disease are lumbar fusion and artificial disc replacement.

Degenerative disc disease progresses at approximately 3% per year after the age of 13, but can be accelerated by physical activity, injuries and trauma.

Many back surgeries may be avoided by undergoing a minimally invasive state-of-the-art stem cell procedure.

thriveMD clinic front desk

Contact our Vail or Denver office to find out if you could be a candidate for stem cell therapy.

Why Seek Out Alternatives to Spinal Fusion and Lumbar Disc Replacement

Significant amount of down time for recovery and rehabilitation
Back surgery can be an invasive, painful procedure that requires a significant amount of down time for recovery and rehabilitation. Patients have been seeking out alternatives to spinal fusion and disc replacement surgeries that have the potential to provide relief without the possible complications of these very invasive surgeries.

Many of these patients have enjoyed the advantages of stem cell therapy to return to their favorite sports. We have performed stem cell treatments for  skiers, golfers, horseback riders, marathon runners, hikers, cyclists, tennis players, and many others.

Current literature suggests that in the long-term, fusion of the lumbar spine in chronic low back pain does not result in an outcome clearly better than conservative treatment. When long term outcomes have been compared between groups of patients that have either undergone surgery or conservative care; pain scores, work status, pain medication, and pain frequency were similar between the two groups.

alternative to back surgery
Spinal fusion surgical outcomes for low back pain have demonstrated similar results to conservative treatment.

How Stem Cells Can Prevent the Need for Back Surgery

Decrease painful inflammation, repair damaged disc cartilage and improve hydration and disc height
Stem cell therapies are an exciting treatment alternative to spinal fusion and lumbar disc replacement. In many cases, your own adult stem cells may be able to replace the need for surgery. This minimally invasive treatment can lead to dramatic improvement in low back pain, while significantly decreasing the risks and recovery time associated with traditional invasive back surgery. The back injection administered into a damaged disc during the stem cell procedure may decrease painful inflammation, repair damaged disc cartilage and improve hydration and disc height.

May be an excellent alternative to fusion surgery when there is no instability in the spine or large disc herniation
Stem cell treatments for back pain may be an excellent alternative to spinal fusion and other back surgery when there is no instability in the spine and there is not a large disc herniation present. Stem cell therapy is not a recommended treatment option for spinal stenosis, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis. Stem cell therapy for the treatment of degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis, and minor disc herniations can dramatically reduce the number of days lost to disability and return patients to work and recreation in markedly reduced time frames compared to surgical alternatives.

stem cell therapy to avoid back surgery

Patient from Castle Rock, CO uses stem cell injections as an alternative to back surgery. – Patient Testimonial

Individual patient results may vary. Please contact us today to find out if stem cell therapy may be able to help you.

Most of our patients who have undergone stem cell therapy for the treatment of low back pain, have been able to avoid invasive surgical intervention.*

Finding relief from severe back pain can be life changing. Below are excerpts from reviews publicly posted by our Colorado patients on Facebook and For more details and examples of what back pain stem cell patients are saying, please visit stem cell reviews for back pain.

“In my particular case, the timing of this new type of very effective medicine can only be explained as divine synchronicity in avoiding a spinal fusion. From the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU! ”*Jeremy from Castle Rock, Colorado
“My back remains 95% pain free since my lumbar disc treatment 18 months ago.”*Patient from Vail, Colorado
*Individual patient results may vary. Contact us today to find out if stem cell therapy may be able to help you.

Case Studies on Stem Cells for Severe Back Pain

stem cell patient avoids back surgery

Stem Cell Patient Avoids Spinal Fusion, Runs a Marathon 6 Months Later

Very active Denver resident uses stem cells to treat lumbar discs, facet joints and Achilles tendon. He becomes pain free and runs a marathon without pain.*

Read the patient case study by Dr. Brandt

relieving sever low central back pain case study

Vail Patient Uses Stem Cells to Relieve Back Pain, Returns to Golf & Skiing

Active resident of Vail turns to stem cell therapy to relieve central low back pain. Notes dramatic improvement in pain levels, flexibility, comfort.*

Read the patient case study by Dr. Brandt

back pain treatment option for active Coloradans

Active Coloradan Uses Stem Cells to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease, Facet Pain, Sciatica

Patient reported 95%* global improvement in her back pain symptoms. Returned to regular exercise and was once again enjoying the hikes and walks that she was unable to do before.

Read the patient case by Dr. Brandt

Back Pain Blog Posts by Dr. Brandt

back injections with stem cells

The Secrets to Effective Stem Cell Injections for Back Pain

Read Dr. Brandt’s blog post reviewing the factors behind successful injections for back pain relief.

Read the blog post by Dr. Brandt

back treatment option to avoid surgery

New Back Pain Treatment Option

Read Dr. Brandt’s blog post reviewing a clinical study on stem cell therapy as a viable treatment option for back pain sufferers who seek to avoid spinal fusion and other invasive back surgery.

Read the blog post by Dr. Brandt

Avoiding Back Surgery with Stem Cells for Degenerative Disc Disease

Avoiding Back Surgery with Stem Cells for Degenerative Disc Disease

The use of adult stem cells for low back pain has been rapidly gaining acceptance as an alternative treatment for degenerative disc disease.

Read the blog post by Dr. Brandt

Research Articles on Stem Cells for Back

Treatment of discogenic back pain with autologous bone marrow concentrate injection with minimum two year follow-up.

PUBLISHED on Int Orthop, 2016   AUTHORS Pettine, K & Suzuki, R

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to assess safety and feasibility of intradiscal bone marrow concentrate (BMC) injections to treat discogenic pain as an alternative to surgery.

METHODS: A total of 26 patients (11 male, 15 female, aged 18-61 years, 13 single level, 13 two level) that met inclusion criteria of chronic (> 6 months) discogenic low back pain, degenerative disc pathology assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with modified Pfirrmann grade of IV-VII at one or two levels, candidate for surgical intervention (failed conservative treatment and radiologic findings) and a visual analogue scale (VAS) pain score of 40 mm or more at initial visit. Initial Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and VAS pain score average was 56.5 % and 80.1 mm (0-100), respectively. Adverse event reporting, ODI score, VAS pain score, MRI radiographic changes, progression to surgery and cellular analysis of BMC were noted. Retrospective cell analysis by flow cytometry and colony forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F) assays were performed to characterise each patient’s BMC and compare with clinical outcomes. The BMC was injected into the nucleus pulposus of the symptomatic disc(s) under fluoroscopic guidance. Patients were evaluated clinically prior to treatment and at three, six, 12 and 24 months and radiographically prior to treatment and at 12 months.

RESULTS:There were no complications from the percutaneous bone marrow aspiration or disc injection. Of 26 patients, 24 (92 %) avoided surgery through 12 months, while 21 (81 %) avoided surgery through two years. Of the 21 surviving patients, the average ODI and VAS scores were reduced to 19.9 and 27.0 at three months and sustained to 18.3 and 22.9 at 24 months, respectively (p ≤ 0.001). Twenty patients had follow-up MRI at 12 months, of whom eight had improved by at least one Pfirrmann grade, while none of the discs worsened. Total and rate of pain reduction were linked to mesenchymal stem cell concentration through 12 months. Only five of the 26 patients elected to undergo surgical intervention (fusion or artificial disc replacement) by the two year milestone.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence of safety and feasibility in the non-surgical treatment of discogenic pain with autologous BMC, with durable pain relief (71 % VAS reduction) and ODI improvements (> 64 %) through two years.

Lumbar fusion versus nonoperative management for treatment of discogenic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

PUBLISHED on J Spinal Disord Tech, 2014   AUTHORS Bydon, M & De la Garza-Ramos, R

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the current evidence comparing lumbar fusion to nonoperative management for the treatment of chronic discogenic low back pain.
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT: Discogenic low back pain is a common and sometimes disabling condition. When the condition becomes chronic and intractable, spinal fusion may play a role.
METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was conducted using the PubMed and CENTRAL databases. We included RCTs that compared lumbar fusion to nonoperative management for the treatment of adult patients with chronic discogenic low back pain. A meta-analysis was conducted to assess the improvement in back pain based on the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI).
RESULTS: Five RCTs met our inclusion criteria. A total of 707 patients were divided into lumbar fusion (n=523) and conservative management (n=134). Although inclusion/exclusion criteria were relatively similar across studies, surgical techniques and conservative management protocols varied. The pooled mean difference in ODI (final ODI-initial ODI) between the nonoperative and lumbar fusion groups across all studies was -7.39 points (95% confidence interval: -20.26, 5.47) in favor of lumbar fusion, but this difference was not statistically significant (P=0.26)
CONCLUSIONS: Despite the significant improvement in ODI in the lumbar fusion groups in 3 studies, pooled data revealed no significant difference when compared with the nonoperative group. Although there was an overall improvement of 7.39 points in the ODI in favor of lumbar fusion, it is unclear that this change in ODI would lead to a clinically significant difference. Prospective randomized trials comparing a specific surgical technique versus a structured physical therapy program may improve evidence quality. Until then, either operative intervention by lumbar fusion or nonoperative management and physical therapy remain 2 acceptable treatment methods for intractable low back pain.

Percutaneous injection of autologous bone marrow concentrate cells significantly reduces lumbar discogenic pain through 12 months.

PUBLISHED on Stem Cells, 2015   AUTHORS Pettine, KA & Murphy, MB

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) induces chronic back pain with limited nonsurgical options. In this open label pilot study, 26 patients (median age 40 years; range 18-61) received autologous bone marrow concentrate (BMC) disc injections (13 one level, 13 two levels). Pretreatment Oswestry disability index (ODI) and visual analog scale (VAS) were performed to establish baseline pain scores (average 56.5 and 79.3, respectively), while magnetic resonance imaging was independently scored according to the modified Pfirrmann scale. Approximately 1 ml of BMC was analyzed for total nucleated cell (TNC) content, colony-forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F) frequency, differentiation potential, and phenotype characterization. The average ODI and VAS scores were reduced to 22.8 and 29.2 at 3 months, 24.4 and 26.3 at 6 months, and 25.0 and 33.2 at 12 months, respectively (p ≤ .0001). Eight of twenty patients improved by one modified Pfirrmann grade at 1 year. The average BMC contained 121 × 10(6) TNC/ml with 2,713 CFU-F/ml (synonymous with mesenchymal stem cells). Although all subjects presented a substantial reduction in pain, patients receiving greater than 2,000 CFU-F/ml experienced a significantly faster and greater reduction in ODI and VAS. Subjects older than 40 years who received fewer than 2,000 CFU-F/ml experienced an average pain reduction of 33.7% (ODI) and 29.1% (VAS) at 12 months, while all other patients’ average reduction was 69.5% (ODI, p = .03) and 70.6% (VAS, p = .01). This study provides evidence of safety and feasibility in the nonsurgical treatment of DDD with autologous BMC and indicates an effect of mesenchymal cell concentration on discogenic pain reduction.

Next Step

If you believe you or someone you care about could be a candidate for stem cell therapy for avoiding back surgery, please contact us today.