A stem cell therapy expert has said that while treating dengue cases, doctors should go easy on steroids, as it could later affect the patient’s hip region. He said that steroids administered for diseases like dengue can eventually lead to avascular necrosis (AVN) in the hip.
At a press conference here on Tuesday, Live 100 Hospital chairman and managing director Dr HN Nagaraj said, “AVN is a condition where the circulation of blood to the hip joint bone stops and the area begins to die. It can happen due to many reasons. Drug induced AVN is common and more so when it is a steroid as in the case of dengue.”
Recounting one such case he said, “Jaydeep, a 37-year-old environmental consultant from USA, had come to us with severe pain his low back. He had already gone for a surgery, but the pain had not subsided. He was asked to get a hip replacement surgery eventually and he was unable to do routine work.”
However, after taking stem cell therapy, Jaydeep is able to walk and even play badminton once in a while, he added.
Recollecting the events Jaydeep said, “I was suspected with dengue, when I was 25, and was given steroid. This eventually led to AVN and I later consulted many doctors, who told me that surgery was the only way out. I even got one done, but it did not help. My brother owns a company, which works with stem cells, and he told me about a case that Live 100 had successfully treated. I came to India and consulted the doctors here, who treated me over a period of 3 months. In February this year I underwent treatment and now I feel fine. The cartilages between my bones in the hip have grown back.”
So far, seven cases of stem cell surgeries have been done successfully. “The protocol which we use for this is different. We take out around 15 million cells from the back of the hip, where the concentration of cells are high with good quality, and then send them to Pune, where it is multiplied. We need 40 million to 50 million cells and over three sittings we inject that in to the affected area. They grow back the cartilage, which is worn out or damaged and then help the blood vessel to get the blood flow back,” he explained.
In an era where almost any part of the body can be operated upon easily and with new technologies helping it, what makes this treatment so special? “When you sit and get up, you put three times more body weight on the hips. Similarly when you climb stairs, you put seven times more weight on the hips. This joint has more wear and tear than other places of the body and also a difficult spot to operate. Lastly, there is only one blood vessel which sends blood to this part of the body, unlike many other parts where there are two or sometimes three,” Nagaraj explained.
Stem cell surgeries are becoming increasingly popular as they involve the patient’s own body cells and have almost no side effects. “In India, 16,000 people annually are affected with AVN. This is more common in other countries. But in India, what we have seen is that it is common among those between the age of 16 and 30 and more so among women,” Dr Nagraj said.
So who is vulnerable to this disease? “There are many reasons for it. One is alcohol consumption. Most commonly, steroids being administered can lead to AVN. Smoking and trauma of some sorts can also lead to AVN. However, till now, we had thought that stem cell works only on younger people. Now we have definite proof that it can work on anyone,” he said. Now doctors are working towards making use of stem cells to treat fractures as well. “Usually a normal cartilage takes 20 years to wear out. With the fresh cartilages, it will take another 20 to 30 years to wear out and by then the person also grows old naturally wearing out the cartilage. So, the recurrence will take a long time,” he said.
Now, ESI has also recommended this as an alternative to hip replacement surgeries. “We hope that insurance companies also take this as a good option. Soon it could become more affordable,” he said.