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At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, safety is first and foremost. As physicians we have a responsibility to our patients and community to do no harm. To that extent, we asked a key question in 2016.

Do commonly injected local anesthetics harm stem cells? You know, those medicines used to numb an area?

The short answer is YES!

We examined the impact of amide-type local anesthetics on the viability of bone marrow-derived stem cells. The local anesthetics were ropivacaine, lidocaine, bupivacaine, and mepivacaine, and each was examined in clinically relevant doses. Varying doses of each anesthetic were incubated for stem cells for 40 minutes, 120 minutes, 360 minutes, and 24 hours. Cell viability was evaluated at each point.

The Results

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Stem cell death occurred in a time- and dose-dependent manner in three out of the four local anesthetics. That is right: CELL DEATH!

The only anesthetic that had no significant impact on cell viability was ropivacaine.

Why Is This Important for Me?

Remember that knee injection last month at your PCP’s or orthopedic physician’s office due to unrelenting pain? Guess what is contained? A local anesthetic, typically bupivacaine or lidocaine, plus a steroid. Our study referenced above clearly demonstrated that clinically relevant doses of lidocaine, bupivacaine, and mepivacaine kill stem cells. These are the common local anesthetics found in a primary care or orthopedic physician’s office.

Stem cells are our repair cells and have the potential of reducing local tissue injury and pain. The only safe anesthetic for regenerative medicine is ropivacaine, which is an expensive local anesthetic not found in your PCP’s or orthopedic physician’s office.

Steroid injections for orthopedic conditions typically contain common local anesthetics that kill your repair cells. Hence, your recent knee steroid injection most likely will accelerate your knee degeneration.

At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, we offer PRP and stem cell treatment options as an alternative to steroid and local anesthetic injections. Treatment options are aimed at healing the injured areas so you can return to your passions. If you’d like more information, our outcome data for knee osteoarthritis is available here.