Dr. Sherman and LoriA heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or completely cut off. The resulting oxygen starvation causes the affected zone of heart muscle cells to die or become damaged, producing what is known as an infarction—a wound or area of scar tissue. This damage can extend to involve other areas of the heart where the blood supply is also limited.

The goal of stem cell therapy after a heart attack is to restore flow to these areas using adult stem cells isolated from the body’s own fat.

Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

At the onset of a heart attack, most individuals report sudden discomfort emanating from the chest, which can extend to the neck or down either arm. Some myocardial infarction (MI) events can manifest silently, or without any symptoms. Others produce any of the following heart attack symptoms or warning signs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Severe anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Feelings of indigestion

After a heart attack, testing is usually done to determine the extent of heart muscle damage. Treatment and lifestyle changes are encouraged by doctors in an attempt to prevent further damage to the heart or a spreading of the infarct.

Stem Cell Therapy for Heart Attack Damage

When heart muscle tissue dies or the heart becomes less functional as a result of an MI, symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath and progressive coronary artery disease are the result. Medications or procedures designed to relieve blockage in the large arteries that feed the heart with blood can help, but sometimes a patient continues to experience signs and symptoms of inadequate blood flow and a deteriorating quality of life.

At Okyanos, stem cell therapy can offer a safe and promising new option. According to current medical literature, patients who receive a dose of stem cells post-heart attack can experience marked improvements to their condition, including:

  • Improved quality of life
  • A reduction in chest pains (angina)
  • Decreased infarct (scar tissue) size
  • Improved consumption and use of oxygen (as measured by patients’ MVO2)

Adult stem cells possess a number of characteristics that can benefit a heart damaged by myocardial infarction. By stimulating the growth of new blood vessels, promoting anti-inflammatory effects, recruiting cells toward tissue regeneration and inhibiting further cell death, adult stem cells can restore some function to damaged or diseased heart muscle.

For more information, watch the video below on stem cell therapy and treating heart attacks:


The Procedure

Stem cell treatment at Okyanos is a minimally invasive, same-day outpatient procedure done in our state-of-the-art Cath Lab.  Though recovery can and does vary from patient to patient, our protocols are designed and carried out with the goal of keeping “downtime” to a minimum. A general overview of the procedure is as follows:

  1. First, water-assisted fat harvesting is done to obtain a sufficient amount of adipose (fat) tissue.
  2. The unique blend of stem and regenerative cells which exist in the adipose tissue are then isolated and prepared for delivery using a proprietary closed/sterile, fully automated CGMP cell processing system. In about 65 minutes, the highly potent SVF is ready for direct injections and IV infusions.
  3. Our expertly-trained cardiologist will perform the procedure, administering the stem cells through a specialized catheter that delivers the SVF to the low pressure, venous side of the heart. We infuse through what’s called the coronary sinus, which is the main vein of the heart for 10 minutes.  The total procedure time is 30 minutes.
  4. The SVF/stem cells may also be administered intravenously (IV) to address the systemic factors relating to cardiac dysfunction.

The Best Care & Safety

Treatment timeframes are usually three days and may vary slightly depending on the personalized plan:

  1. Day 1: Pre-operative session includes an office visit with the medical staff for a final detailed review of the patient’s treatment plan and answer any questions from the patient and family members.
  2. Day 2: The patient undergoes treatment and briefly rests in our comfortable facility before being escorted back to their hotel for the evening.
  3. Day 3: Post-operative session involves a brief physical at Okyanos and a discharge plan discussion. The physician reviews the post treatment recommendations, the follow up communication plan and clears the patient to go home.

For a more detailed understanding of what you can expect, watch our video series with Gretchen Dezelick, RN and Director of Clinical Operations.

For a detailed understanding of stem cell safety at Okyanos, watch our video below.


American Heart Association

US Centers for Disease Control

National Institutes of Health