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Stem cell injections in knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review of the literature

Pas HI, Winters M, Haisma HJ, Koenis MJ, Tol JL, Moen MH. Stem cell injections in knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review of the literature. Br J Sports Med. 2017 Aug;51(15):1125–1133. PubMed #28258177.

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVE: Stem cell injection for knee osteoarthritis (KOA) is an emerging new therapy, and we aimed to review its evidence of efficacy.

DESIGN: Systematic review.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: Criteria for eligibility were randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and non-RCT on the efficacy of stem cell injections in KOA. All references were checked for missed articles.

DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, PEDro and SPORTDiscus were searched. A grey literature search was performed. No restrictions were imposed to our search strategy.

RISK OF BIAS AND DATA SYNTHESIS: Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Descriptive synthesis was performed using the levels of evidence according to the Oxford Levels of Evidence.

RESULTS: Five RCTs and one non-RCT were found. Bone-marrow-derived stem cells, adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells and peripheral blood stem cells were used. All trials were at high risk of bias, resulting in level-3 evidence. All five RCTs reported superior efficacy for patient-reported outcomes (Visual Analogue Scale, Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index, Tegner, Lysolm, International Knee Documentation Committee, Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score, Lequesne) compared with controls at final follow-up (range 24-48 months). Superior radiological outcomes were found favouring stem cell injection. Superior histological outcomes and/or improved arthroscopically scored healing rates were reported in two trials. No serious adverse events were reported.

CONCLUSION: Six trials with high risk of bias showed level-3 or level-4 evidence in favour of stem cell injections in KOA. In the absence of high-level evidence, we do not recommend stem cell therapy for KOA.

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