Chronic Back Pain Treatment

Austin, TX woman receives ethical stem cells

An Austin, TX woman is the first patient in the town to receive her own bone marrow stem cells to speed spinal fusion or regrowth after surgery. Lottrell Davis is the beneficiary of a technology that allows rapid processing and concentration of the bone marrow so that the procedure can be done during one surgical procedure.

KXAN-TV report

A Central Texas woman has become Austin's first recipient of a stem cell implant. The procedure was performed at the new hospital at Westlake Medical Center.

Thanks to two Austin companies, what used to take months can now be done in just a few hours.

Lottrell Davis takes her first steps since undergoing innovative surgery on May 9 to alleviate her chronic back pain. While she grimaces in pain, she readily admits the discomfort resulting from her rehab is nothing compared to the back pain she's endured for the last decade.

"On a scale of one to 10, it was about a 15. Sometimes I would just sit on my bed and just cry because I couldn't do anything else with the pain," Davis said.

Over the last 10 years, Davis has had everything from routine back surgery to epidural steroid injections to spinal cord stimulators, which are supposed to trick the body into thinking it's not really experiencing as much pain.

The trick was on Davis because nothing worked. Then orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Scott Spann told Davis about a procedure that uses stem cells from the patients own bone marrow to aid in spinal fusion.

"The stem cells don't make her lose the pain. The idea is they will enhance her body's ability to achieve the fusion," Spann said.

Thanks to two Austin companies, this procedure, which used to take months, can now be done in one operative session.

Spinesmith developed the special needle and other equipment that extracts or harvests the stem cells. Surgical Outcomes designed the centrifuge system which produces sort of the cream of the crop of the patient's stem cells.

Spann says the technology allows the body to jump-start its own bone healing process.

"We're just enhancing the body's natural biology," Spann said.

After her surgery, Davis has just one question.

"Now I wonder, why did I wait so long? The way I feel now, as opposed to how I was feeling before, I don't understand why I did wait for so long," Davis said.

Before this new Austin-developed technology, patients would have to go in, be put under and have bone marrow scraped from their legs. That was then sent to a lab where the stem cells were extracted. Then another operation was needed to insert the stem cells.

Now it's all done in just a few hours.

When people hear the words stem cells they may think this is a controversial procedure, but that's not the case here.

The controversy that arose a few years, and eventually went before the president, was over embryonic stem cells.

The stem cells used in this procedure are harvested from the patient's own body.