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Treating Severe Ankle Arthritis with Stem Cells

POSTED ON IN Ankle Ankle Procedure Ankle, Foot and Toe Procedure Outcomes Latest News BY Chris Centeno

We’re hard on ourselves. Based on the almost 10,000 stem-cell-treated patients on whom we’ve tracked and recorded outcomes, we have noted several trends. Based on that data, we often tell patients that they’re not great candidates for an injection of their own stem cells. Sometimes they prove us wrong. The video above was sent by a patient with severe ankle arthritis who got a stem cell injection here at our Colorado clinic a little less than a year ago. In this case, I love being wrong!

Ankle Arthritis—What You Should Know

The single biggest cause of ankle arthritis that we see consistently in the clinic is occult instability. This is where someone sprains an ankle and while they seem to recover, the ligaments that protect the ankle joints are stretched out. Over time, the slight extra motions in the ankle lead to breakdown in the joint, and arthritis develops.

Jim’s Ankle Odyssey

Jim was evaluated by myself about a year ago. He had an 8-year history of ankle pain, which wasn’t helped by the fact that as a firefighter he is required to carry heavy backpacks. The joint would also swell with hiking.

At that time, his MRI showed severe ankle arthritis with cysts in the bone and what’s called a BML. This is an area in the bone that can cause pain and is swollen on the MRI. It’s an indication of microfractures in the struts that support the structure of the bone. The surgical solution for this side was an ankle fusion. In this surgery, screws are placed across the many ankle joints to bolt them together and irreversibly stop motion. His other ankle had a stretched-out deltoid ligament with more mild arthritis. He also had irritated nerves in his low back.

Based on our registry data, I told Jim that his ankle with severe arthritis wasn’t a good candidate. This is based on treating hundreds of ankle patients over the years and reviewing our registry data to figure out which ones do the best. However, the problem with looking at large amounts of data is that any one person can be an outlier and prove you wrong.

About a year ago, we treated all of these areas. This included precise injections into the arthritic joints using our proprietary HD-BMC technique as well as treating the stretched ligaments. Finally, we also injected some of his stem cells into the bone lesion using X-ray guidance.

How did Jim do? A video is worth a thousand words! See above.

The upshot? We’re honest with patients and give them the benefit of the registry data we’ve collected. At the end of the day, we try to underpromise and overdeliver. In Jim’s case of severe ankle arthritis, I’m very glad to have been wrong!


    *DISCLAIMER: Like all medical procedures, Regenexx® Procedures have a success and failure rate. Patient reviews and testimonials on this site should not be interpreted as a statement on the effectiveness of our treatments for anyone else.
    Providers listed on the Regenexx website are for informational purposes only and are not a recommendation from Regenexx for a specific provider or a guarantee of the outcome of any treatment you receive.


    Jeanette Bowles-Sellier says

    Great news for me, but what about hip arthritis results with stem cells?


    Chris Centeno says


    Hip arthritis escalates very quickly and is a very different process than arthritis in other joints. If caught early enough (mild to moderate arthritis) the same day procedure is usually appropriate. If left to escalate to severe arthritis the cultured procedure is usually necessary. Of course, every case and medical history is different, and needs to evaluated for Candidacy individually. Please see:


    Helen Jeffries says

    Can you Treat Worn discs and worn facet joints with stem cell treatment.


    Chris Centeno says

    We treat degenerated discs and facet joints regularly, most commonly with platelet and platelet lysate procedures. Stem cells are not used in degenerated discs, but can be used in very specific situations. Please see: and If you'd like us to weigh in on your particular case, please submit the Candidate form.


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    About the Author

    Chris Centeno

    Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…

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