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Stem cell treatment for orthopedic conditions has become increasingly popular, as well as more things being called stem cell treatments. What is Lipogems treatment?  How long does Lipogems last?  How much does Lipogems cost?  What are the Lipogems patient reviews?  Let’s dig in.

What is Lipogems Treatment?

Lipogems is a medical device that processes a patient’s own fat that has been liposuctioned from their buttock, abdomen or thigh (1).   The fat is extracted and processed with the intention being used to treat various orthopedic conditions such as knee osteoarthritis (2).  Fat contains stem cells and some physicians and patients alike think that Lipogems is a stem cell procedure.  The procedure itself involves placing the liposuctioned fat into a chamber that has many steel balls.  The chamber is then shaken and the steel balls break the fat into smaller pieces while saline cleans it.  It is similar to a cocktail shaker.  The stem cells in fat are tightly woven into a collagen fabric and not easily separated.  It is possible to liberate the fat stem cells using enzymes which the FDA has identified as illegal.  The procedure is called a stromal vascular fraction.  The next best option is Lipogems where the fat is broken down into small pieces.  Unfortunately, the stem cells are still bound to the fat and as such, the procedure should be called a stem cell procedure.   At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, we have compared the number of stem cells obtained from Lipogem kit vs those from a bone marrow aspirate.  The Lipogem kit obtained a small number of stem cells whereas the bone marrow aspirate was rich in stem cells.  Hence Lipogems should not be considered a stem cell procedure but rather a fat graft.  To learn more about Lipogems please click on the video below.

 

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How Long does Lipogems Last?

A fat stem cell procedure and a fat graft are two distinct and different products.  A fat graft has cells that are trapped in their tiny collagen prisons are unable to escape.   if you place a fat graft in culture, the stem cells generally perish before being released from the fat.  This explains their relatively short shelf life as the fat stem cells are trapped in the fat and unable to implant into surrounding tissue and grow (3).  In a  fat stem cell procedure, the stem cells are free to attach and grow into the adjacent tissue which has a blood supply and readily available nutrients.  In doing so they can grow and expand over long periods of time.  The Lipogems procedure is a fat graft accordingly would not be expected to last long.

I reviewed the literature and was quite surprised.  In contrast to bone marrow stem cell treatments, there is very little published research on Lipogems, its effectiveness, and how long it lasts.  Below is a summary of the published literature.

Published Studies

  • 2018 study of 17 patients with a median age of 72 years noted a reduction in pain and increase in function following Lipogen injection at 12 months post-injection (4).

Ongoing Studies

  • An ongoing non-randomized study of 75 patients was started in April 2019.  The aim of the study is to determine the effectiveness of Lipogem in the treatment of early degenerative knee disease (5).  The Lipogem graft is injected in the knee after surgery.
  • Another study underway is examining the efficiency of fat tissue vs hyaluronic acid in the treatment of mild to moderate knee arthritis (6).

How Much Does Lipogems Cost?

Costs may vary based upon your location, physician expertise and areas to be treated.  The procedure is typically performed in an ambulatory surgery suite, procedure room in doctor’s office, or hospital.  The average cost is $3500 for one body part, and an additional $500 for each additional area.

Lipogems Patient Reviews

Pick any medical practice that is using the Lipogems treatment and you will find countless Lipogems patient reviews. The reviews will highlight the treatment and a given patient’s success.  Unfortunately, these Lipogems patient reviews are not part of randomized controlled studies which is the gold standard in medicine.  We know little about each patient’s medical or surgical history.  Baseline pain and functional measurements and level of activity are not recorded.  There is no follow up, list of complications and most importantly not a comparison to a similar group of patients who underwent conservative care in the form of physical therapy.  While inspirational and dramatic, these Lipogem patient reviews tells us very little.

In Conclusion

Lipogems is a medical device that processes a patient’s own fat.  The fat is used in the treatment of various orthopedic conditions.  The device breaks up the fat into smaller pieces which are then injected into various joints, tendons, and ligaments.  Fat stem cells are tightly bound to collagen and are not freely liberated even with the steel balls used in the Lipogems procedure.  Hence the Lipogems procedure is not an adipose stem cell procedure but rather a fat graft. Trapped in a collagen fabric the fat stem cells have little chance of implanting into a tissue or surviving for long periods of time.  Little published research on the Lipogems procedure exists.  Several pilot studies are underway.  Lipogems is not covered by insurance and on average costs $3500 for a single body part and an additional $500 for each additional part.  Medical practice’s websites and the internet is rich in Lipogems patient reviews which are isolated success stories that are emotional, but lack the quality and design of randomized control studies.

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1.Cattaneo G, De Caro A, Napoli F, Chiapale D, Trada P, Camera A. Micro-fragmented adipose tissue injection associated with arthroscopic procedures in patients with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018;19(1):176.DOI: 10.1186/s12891-018-2105-8.

2.Tremolada C, Ricordi C, Caplan AI, Ventura C. Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Lipogems, a Reverse Story: from Clinical Practice to Basic Science. Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1416:109-22.DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-3584-0_6. 

3. Kim DY, Ji YH, Kim DW, Dhong ES, Yoon ES. Effects of platelet-rich plasma, adipose-derived stem cells, and stromal vascular fraction on the survival of human transplanted adipose tissue. J Korean Med Sci. 2014;29 Suppl 3:S193-200.DOI: 10.3346/jkms.2014.29.S3.S193.

4. Panchal J, Malanga G, Sheinkop M. Safety and Efficacy of Percutaneous Injection of Lipogems Micro-Fractured Adipose Tissue for Osteoarthritic Knees. Am J Orthop. 2018;47(11). DOI: 10.12788/ajo.2018.0098.

5.https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03922490.

6. Jones IA, Wilson M, Togashi R, Han B, Mircheff AK, Thomas Vangsness C Jr. A randomized, controlled study to evaluate the efficacy of intra-articular, autologous adipose tissue injections for the treatment of mild-to-moderate knee osteoarthritis compared to hyaluronic acid: a study protocol. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018;19(1):383. Published 2018 Oct 24. doi:10.1186/s12891-018-2300-7