What is a Spinal Fusion?

Due to many possible conditions of the spine, a person’s spine may become unstable and a surgeon will prescribe a fusion of one or more levels of the spine. Surgeons may insert what’s called “hardware” to stabilize the spine so no damage or no further damage occurs. Decreasing inflammation and recovery time are two challenges. One of the biggest ones has been getting the bones in the spine to fuse once the hardware is placed. That’s where the use of one’s own Adult Stem Cells now comes into play.

What are Adult Stem Cells?

Adult Stem Cells are cells which haven’t fully developed into the cells they will ultimately become. In spinal fusions, the Adult Stem Cells are bone marrow cells. Bone marrow is the matrix found in the center of long bones. This is also the place where blood cells are produced.

When our surgeons remove a sample of the marrow tissue for use for spinal surgery, what’s being retrieved is both Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC) (blood stem cells) and Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) (bone stem cells). During the separation process, the marrow is spun in a centrifuge-like machine. This separates the marrow into different parts. Two of the important parts for these procedures are the MSC’s and the Platelets.

How are Adult Stem Cells used during Spinal Surgery?

Once the MSC’s have been pulled and separated from the marrow, they are packed around the bone graft being used for the fusion. Then, the MSC’s eventually convert into what is called osteoblasts or bone cells. Since these are essentially a patient’s own bone cells, the body does not reject them. This allows the bones in the spine to fuse at a faster rate.

After the MSC’s are packed, the Platelets are then injected into the surrounding soft tissue in the area where the surgery is taking place. This assists in decreasing inflammation related to the surgery. This also minimizes a patient’s recovery time and scar tissue.