The term “stem cell procedure” has become a catchphrase for the use of just about any type of biologic injection, regardless of whether the injection contains live stem cells or not. There is now a constant stream of advertising for stem cell treatments for nearly every medical problem imaginable. Often these advertisements promote the use of biologics to treat many systemic medical problems such as MS, Parkinson’s disease, and COPD despite little evidence to support their use.
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The treatment of orthopedic injuries is one of the few medical applications where stem cell injections have demonstrated appreciable improvement in evidence-based studies. Good outcomes are much more likely as long as an accurate image-guided cell procedure is carried out utilizing an autologous cellular source (patient’s own cells). Over the past five years, unspecialized centers advertising stem cell treatments have popped up all over the country.
Many of these clinics are not owned or operated by a physician, and quite often the procedures are not performed by physicians. Many of these clinics are owned by chiropractors and the injections are performed by injectionists who often are untrained in joint or spine treatments, usually nursing staff. The majority of these injections are carried out without image guidance, and therefore, cannot ensure proper placement of the cells.
Best Stem Cell Sources with Potential for Cartilage & Soft Tissue Regeneration
The majority of these clinics utilize biologic products that fall into two classes of birth material: cord blood and amniotic tissue. Neither of these biologics, in their injectable form, contain live adult stem cells. When these injectables have been tested in the lab by growing the injection material out in-culture, no appreciable stem colonies have been demonstrated. Although these materials may contain growth factors that can be beneficial to stem cell growth, they contain virtually no live stem cells.
There are two cellular products that contain significant enough cell counts to have the potential to regenerate damaged cartilage or soft tissue. These are bone marrow concentrate and adipose (fat) derived stem cells. Both contain live adult stem cells. The cell counts in bone marrow fall dramatically as a patient ages; and after the age of 40 cell counts may not be adequate to provide an appreciative regenerative effect when used alone.
This is not the case with adipose-derived cells, where cell counts remain significant throughout a patient’s life. There are 500-2000 times more cells in a good fat harvest than are found in bone marrow concentrate. The use of adipose derived cells offers a much greater regenerative potential than bone marrow concentrate. The two autologous cell sources can be used in combination to maximize healing potential.
Patient Success Stories and Clear Expectations
Legitimate stem cell clinics will have patients who can speak to the effectiveness of the procedures. Watch out for strong claims from clinics promising a cure-all for every disease state. Many trusted patient reviews are available on public online platforms, as you can see displayed in our collections of stem cell reviews for joints & soft tissue, or reviews for back pain treatments.
To get a full picture of what a patient’s experience with the clinic may be like, read into detailed stem cell patient case studies. Remember that success is subjective and the treatment should start with a thorough evaluation of your imaging and symptoms. An experienced stem cell physician will make sure that the patient is not misinformed by popular stem cell myths, and that the patient’s expectations are in line with the benefits the procedure may provide in their specific case.
Maximizing Your Return on the Cost of Stem Cell Therapy
It is imperative to not simply compare the price of a stem cell procedure when making the decision on the appropriate regenerative stem cell treatment. Be selective when looking at ortho-biologic options. Make sure that you are receiving a cell procedure with a high volume of live autologous stem cells.
In addition, make sure the injection is being performed by a trained injection specialist and that they are using image guidance, to be certain the cells are placed at the specific targeted location. If you are going to spend the money to undergo a regenerative procedure, give yourself the best chance of achieving the desired result.
What to Ask to Find a Stem Cell Clinic You Can Trust
Stem cell therapy has been making significant advances in orthopedic treatments of joints, soft tissue and spine pain. To find the best clinic, we recommend you seek out:
- A stem cell clinic owned and operated by an experienced stem cell physician
- That the stem cell injections are performed by a trained injection specialist
- X-ray guided stem cell injections are used in the treatment of spine and joint pain
- Stem cells are sourced from a combination of both fat and bone marrow, harvested from your own body
- Detailed case studies about the clinic’s own patients
- Patient reviews