Background: Prior studies describing the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis with injections of bone marrow concentrate have provided encouraging results. The relationship between the cellular dose contained within the bone marrow concentrate and efficacy of the treatment, however, is unclear. In the present study we describe clinical outcomes for symptomatic knee osteoarthritis in relation to higher and lower cell concentrations contained within a bone marrow concentrate treatment protocol.
Methods: Data from an ongoing patient registry was culled to identify 373 patients that received bone marrow concentrate injections for the treatment of 424 osteoarthritic knee joints. The clinical scales for these patients were assessed at baseline and then tracked post-procedure at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months, and annually thereafter. Tracked outcomes included the numeric pain scale; a lower extremity functional questionnaire; an International Knee Documentation Committee scale; and a subjective improvement rating scale. Using pain and functional outcome measures, a receiver operating characteristic analysis was used to define an optimal clinical outcome threshold at which bone marrow nucleated cell count could be divided into either a lower or higher cell count group within a treatment protocol.
Results: The lower and higher cell count groups were defined using a threshold of 4 × 108 cells. There were 224 and 185 knee joints treated in the lower (≤4 × 108) and higher (>4 × 108) cell count groups respectively. Most joints were diagnosed with early stage knee osteoarthritis. Both the lower and higher cell count groups demonstrated significant positive results with the treatment for all of the pain and functional metrics. The higher cell count group reported lower post treatment numeric pain scale values, in comparison with the lower cell count group (1.6 vs. 3.2; P < 0.001). No significant differences were detected for the other metrics, however.
Conclusions: Improved function and reduced pain was observed in patients treated with a bone marrow concentrate protocol regardless of cellular dose; however, patients receiving a higher concentration of cells reported a better pain outcome in comparison with the lower dose group. These preliminary findings suggest that cell dose may be an important factor governing clinical outcomes in autologous bone marrow concentrate treatment of knee osteoarthritis. Further studies using a larger patient population may help elucidate these findings.