Yonkers woman treated with stem cells for knee pain

Date (2015-09-04 )


Gail Fatato might be 67, tadalafil but she feels “like I’m 24.”

It’s no wonder, since the Yonkers resident has always been active. As a teenager, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in one knee while downhill skiing, but that didn’t slow her down. Since then, the Yonkers resident has driven racecars, hiked through the Adirondacks, played tennis and enjoyed bike rides on the Bronx River Parkway.

Before retiring, she’d often wake up at 5:30 a.m. to take a walk before work. But all that exercise left its mark on her knees, as did a stint as an aesthetician, a job that sometimes required her to be on her feet for up to 10 hours a day. She eventually developed irritation and swelling, and was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. X-rays showed that nearly all the protective cartilage had worn away in her knees, allowing the bones of the joints to rub against each other.

Her discomfort was so great that she usually couldn’t function without pain medication. “It got me down having to take Advil or Aleve every day,” she says.

She also got cortisone shots (to reduce inflammation) and hyaluronic acid injections (to lubricate and cushion the joint), but neither worked for long. She went to three different doctors for help, one of whom suggested a knee replacement. Fatato, however, was determined to find an alternative.

“I figured if they can get all of these basketball players and football players out there playing again, there isn’t any reason why they can’t help someone like me,” she says.

What she did

Stem cell treatments: Fatato went online and began reading about stem cell treatments, which have reportedly helped pro athletes such as Peyton Manning, Jason Kidd and Amar’e Stoudemire. She consulted with Dr. Steven Struhl, a longtime orthopedic surgeon with a private practice in White Plains and Manhattan, who is also a faculty member at NYU School of Medicine.

Struhl thought Fatato was a good candidate for the therapy, which extracts a patient’s own bone marrow stem cells from the pelvic bone and concentrates them in a centrifuge. Stem cells have the unique ability to transform into other types of cells and are thought to have natural healing properties, and they appear to help produce fresh cartilage after being injected into a damaged joint.

In April, Fatato had the procedure done as an outpatient at Struhl’s office. He administered a local anesthetic to remove the marrow, a process that she describes as “uncomfortable” but not painful. The knee injections didn’t hurt either, although she felt some pressure, “like a balloon effect.” A half-hour later, Fatato drove herself home. “It was very easy to get through,” she says.

How it helped

Within 10 days, Fatato says her pain had decreased significantly. Not long after that, she could sense a difference in how she walked; her knees weren’t as stiff, and she could feel the muscles moving in her upper thighs again.

Six weeks after the initial shots, she went to Struhl for a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection, a similar procedure that uses platelets from the blood to further stimulate healing.

“I already felt an increase in mobility and agility, but after the PRP shot, it was over the top,” says Fatato, who is back to biking and lifting light ankle weights.

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