Todd is a middle-aged man who tore his rotator cuff when lifting weights and was told he needed surgery to repair the tear. Todd chose to avoid the knife and instead got his own stem cells precisely injected into the tear using sophisticated imaging guidance.

The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons around the ball of the shoulder ball and socket joint. They help to control the motion of the joint and finely adjust the stability. Tears are common in middle-aged people and often result in surgery to repair the tear. Recent research, however, has questioned the effectiveness of the surgery to treat shoulder rotator cuff tears. As a result, newer interventional orthopedic approaches using precise injections of platelets or stem cells into the tear have emerged as less invasive alternatives.

Todd injured his shoulder when he lost control of a heavy weight. The ultrasound of his shoulder demonstrated multiple partial thickness tears and large chunks of bone that had been damaged throughout the years. In April 2014, Todd’s own bone-marrow stem cells were injected precisely into the torn areas using ultrasound to guide the injection. He had one PRP “booster shot” at around three months after his stem-cell injection. He has been seen by his doctor multiple times since, and as of August 2015 Todd reports that his shoulder is 100 percent improved with no pain or functional limitations. The rotator cuff tendon also looks markedly improved with ultrasound imaging.

Todd seems to have successfully dodged the surgeon’s knife. He’s thrilled and now back to pumping iron without any issues. Most importantly, Todd never experienced the protracted down time and long rehabilitation of a traditional rotator cuff surgery, where the patient wears the dreaded pillow immobilizer and has to dramatically limit activities. Instead, he just listened to his body and laid off activities that hurt while his shoulder healed.

“Shoulder Stem-Cell Repair” first appeared as a post on the Regenexx blog.

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