The results of this study demonstrated significant improvements in pain, quality of life, and function at 12 months after ultrasound-guided injection of ASCs in patients with severe knee OA. Significant improvement that was noted at 6 weeks was maintained through 12 months after the treatment. Improvement was noted in all scales, including the NPRS, the KSS, and the FXN beginning at 3 months and continuing through 12 months. The LEAS was statistically significant through 6 months after the treatment but not significant at 12 months. No serious adverse events were recorded.
In a study by Lee and colleagues,13 the MCID was described for KSS and FXN in patients who underwent TKA for primary OA. This is the minimal change in a scoring measure that is perceived by the patient to be beneficial or harmful. The MCID for KSS was noted to be between 5.3 and 5.9, while the MCID for FXN was between 6.1 and 6.4.13 In our study, the KSS score improved from an average of 74.0 at baseline to 79.6 at 6 months and 81.6 at 12 months (a difference of 5.6 and 7.6; P = .18 and.014, respectively). The FXN improved from an average of 65.4 at baseline to 75.2 at 6 months and 76.4 at 12 months (a difference of 9.9 and 11; P = .041 and.014, respectively). Therefore, a clinically important difference of KSS and FXN scores was noted at both 6 and 12 months.
The technique used in this study provides autologous, minimally manipulated, fat graft performed in a short time (60-90 minutes), without expansion and/or enzymatic treatment. In addition, the harvesting and the injection of stem cells on the same day is a simple, office-based procedure, and compliant with the U. S. Food and Drug Administration regulations.18 The cost of the procedure averages $3500.
A study limitation is that it is a case series with relatively small numbers and not a randomized controlled study. Therefore, a placebo effect may play a role in our results. Further study with a larger number of patients and randomized controlled studies would be beneficial to support the findings of this study.
The injection of autologous, micro-fractured, minimally manipulated adipose tissue appears to be a safe and effective treatment option in patients with refractory severe (grade 3 or 4) knee OA. This study showed significant improvements in pain, quality of life, and function for at least 12 months in this study population. This intervention may represent a nonsurgical treatment option to avoid knee joint replacement in this population; however, further investigation is needed.