Percutaneous injection of autologous bone marrow concentrate cells significantly reduces lumbar discogenic pain through 12 months.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) induces chronic back pain with limited nonsurgical options. In this open label pilot study, 26 patients (median age 40 years; range 18-61) received autologous bone marrow concentrate (BMC) disc injections (13 one level, 13 two levels). Pretreatment Oswestry disability index (ODI) and visual analog scale (VAS) were performed to establish baseline pain scores (average 56.5 and 79.3, respectively), while magnetic resonance imaging was independently scored according to the modified Pfirrmann scale. Approximately 1 ml of BMC was analyzed for total nucleated cell (TNC) content, colony-forming unit-fibroblast (CFU-F) frequency, differentiation potential, and phenotype characterization. The average ODI and VAS scores were reduced to 22.8 and 29.2 at 3 months, 24.4 and 26.3 at 6 months, and 25.0 and 33.2 at 12 months, respectively (p ≤ .0001). Eight of twenty patients improved by one modified Pfirrmann grade at 1 year. The average BMC contained 121 × 10(6) TNC/ml with 2,713 CFU-F/ml (synonymous with mesenchymal stem cells). Although all subjects presented a substantial reduction in pain, patients receiving greater than 2,000 CFU-F/ml experienced a significantly faster and greater reduction in ODI and VAS. Subjects older than 40 years who received fewer than 2,000 CFU-F/ml experienced an average pain reduction of 33.7% (ODI) and 29.1% (VAS) at 12 months, while all other patients' average reduction was 69.5% (ODI, p = .03) and 70.6% (VAS, p = .01). This study provides evidence of safety and feasibility in the nonsurgical treatment of DDD with autologous BMC and indicates an effect of mesenchymal cell concentration on discogenic pain reduction.