Lake Macquarie Private Hospital
Part of Ramsay Health Care


New Stem Cell Technique Offers Hope

Feb 10, 2014

There is now good evidence that autologous stem cells (from the patient's own body), may be of use in the treatment of chronic leg ulcers.

Leg ulcers affect around one per cent of the Australian population with the most common cause being poor circulation. Treatment options include compression bandages, various dressings and surgery.

Mr John "Jack" Dickson is a lively 88 year old gentleman from Armidale, NSW. He came to Lake Macquarie Private Hospital last year for surgical treatment of his severe peripheral vascular disease to try to improve circulation to his gangrenous toes.

Lake Macquarie Vascular Surgeon, Conjoint Associate Professor Paul Myers, operated to open a blocked artery in Mr Dickson's pelvis. However, he also had 3 blocked arteries in the lower leg which were not able to be cleared or bypassed.

Subsequent to that surgery, Mr Dickson had a forefoot amputation due to gangrene in the foot which was very slow to heal. Sadly, this is often the path for people with poor circulation in their legs.

Following some time in rehabilitation he returned to Lake Macquarie Private as there was no improvement in the healing of that foot.

In December 2013 Dr Myers harvested bone marrow from Mr Dickson's pelvis under general anaesthetic. That bone marrow was specially prepared in the theatre at Lake Macquarie Private, so that only Jack's stem cells were remaining. These stem cells were then injected along the course of the blocked arteries in his lower leg and into and around the forefoot amputation site.

Since then, there seems to have been a significant acceleration of healing of the foot.

Mr Dickson reports he is feeling better, he has better pain control and is looking forward to the possibility of returning home.

"While I am grateful for the marvellous care I have received here at the hospital, my aim is now to get back home. For quite some time it looked like I might not be able to" Mr Dickson said.

Dr Myers said this procedure has only previously been performed very recently in Sydney and Melbourne and that he is pleased with the results so far.

"Autologous stem cell infusions seem to be a very significant advance in the treatment of people with, as in Jack's case, chronic leg ulceration. This treatment may offer hope for many people who are suffering the debilitating effects of vascular disease."

Lake Macquarie Private Hospital is the leading provider of private Vascular Surgery services in the Hunter region, with over 700 cases performed per year.