Pain originating from the intervertebral disc (discogenic pain) is a prevalent manifestation of low back pain and is often challenging to treat. Of recent interest, regenerative medicine options with injectable biologics have been trialed in discogenic pain and a wide variety of other painful musculoskeletal conditions. In particular, the role of bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC) and culture-expanded bone marrow derived mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs) in treating discogenic pain remains unclear. The primary objective of this systematic review was to appraise the evidence of intradiscal injection with BMAC and culture-expanded BM-MSCs in alleviating pain intensity from discogenic pain. Secondary outcomes included changes in physical function after intradiscal injection, correlation between stromal cell count and pain intensity, and anatomical changes of the disc assessed by radiographic imaging after intradiscal injection. Overall, 16 studies consisting of 607 participants were included in qualitative synthesis without pooling. Our synthesis revealed that generally intradiscal autologous or allogeneic BMAC and culture-expanded BM-MSCs improved discogenic pain compared to baseline. Intradiscal injection was also associated with improvements in physical functioning and positive anatomical changes on spine magnetic resonance imaging (improved disc height, disc water content, Pfirrmann grading) although anatomical findings were inconsistent across studies. However, the overall GRADEscore for this study was very low due to heterogeneity and poor generalizability. There were no serious adverse events reported post intradiscal injection except for a case of discitis.
There may well be something to this, but the level of evidence is very low.
This is an interesting review. The secondary outcome is more important as it does not rely on pain scores. The intradiscal injection of bone marrow resulted in positive anatomical changes on spine magnetic resonance imaging (improved disc height, disc water content, Pfirrmann grading), but anatomical findings were inconsistent across studies.
As shown by GRADE's evaluation, it is necessary to be cautious because is not possible to conclude the treatment effect from this study alone, but I think that this study will bring new knowledge to clinicians.