Implantation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is a potential cell-based modality for cartilage repair. Currently, its clinical use largely surrounds focal cartilage defect repair and intra-articular injections in knee osteoarthritis. The MSCs’ implantation efficacy as a treatment option for osteoarthritis remains contentious. This systematic review aims to evaluate studies that focused on MSCs implantation in patients with knee OA to provide a summary of this treatment option outcomes.
A systematic search was performed in PubMed (Medline), Scopus, Cinahl, and the Cochrane Library. Original studies investigating outcomes of MSCs implantations in patients with knee OA were included. Data on clinical outcomes using subjective scores, radiological outcomes, and second-look arthroscopy gradings were extracted.
Nine studies were included in this review. In all included studies, clinical outcome scores revealed significantly improved functionality and better postoperative pain scores at 2–3 years follow-up. Improved cartilage volume and quality at the lesion site was observed in five studies that included a postoperative magnetic resonance imaging assessment and studies that performed second-look arthroscopy. No major complications or tumorigenesis occurred. Outcomes were consistent in both single MSCs implantation and concurrent HTO with MSCs implantation in cases with excessive varus deformity.
According to the available literature, MSCs implantation in patients with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis is safe and provides short-term clinical improvement and satisfactory cartilage restoration, either as a standalone procedure or combined with HTO in cases with axial deformity. However, the evidence is limited due to the high heterogeneity among studies and the insufficient number of studies including a control group and mid-term outcomes.
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