Novel stem cell technique helps patients avoid total hip replacement

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Jeanne Mitterando, 46, is a very active family medicine doctor— she hikes, skis and works out with a personal trainer. But all that stopped after she was hospitalized for asthma and given high-dose steroids for a month.

The Martinsville, New Jersey woman began experiencing pain in her right hip and soon needed a cane to walk.

“I was [doing rounds] at the hospital, but slowly, walking became a problem,” she told “I couldn’t do stairs anymore.”

Soon, the pain moved into her left hip and she was diagnosed with avascular necrosis, where the bone dies in the femoral head, the highest part of the thigh bone. The condition accounts for 15 percent of all total hip replacements performed every year in the U.S.

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But Mitterando didn’t want a hip replacement.

“If I’m active and using a hip replacement, I’m going to need new ones,” she said. “So every time you get a new hip, the integrity of the joint is lost; there’s more of a chance of rejection.”

Mitterando found Dr. Thomas Einhorn, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, whose taking a different approach by using patient’s stem cells.

“[The stem cells] will become bone-forming cells as they attach to the dead bone and eventually the dead bone will be removed and replaced with live bone,” Einhorn told

In about one hour per hip, Einhorn can do the procedure on both hips at the same time. First, he extracts bone marrow from the patient’s femur. Then he transfers the marrow to a device that concentrates the cells. Finally, he drills out some of the dead bone and injects the stem cells into that area.

Patients who don’t experience a collapse in their femoral head don’t need a hip replacement and this technique can show meaningful change, he said.

“Our results are about 65 percent successful and a lot of people will say, ‘Wow, that’s great.’ I want it to be greater than that,” Einhorn added.

Post-op patients are able to walk immediately, but Einhorn advises using a cane for six weeks to prevent falling.

Six months after the procedure, Mitterando is back on track, swimming, hiking, doing pilates and yoga.

“It’s a miracle for me,” she said. “I can take care of myself. There’s really not much I can’t do as far as day-to-day activities right now.”

Einhorn is also using the method, which is covered by insurance, for knees and shoulders with similar success.

For more information visit and Dr. Einhorn’s website.