Stem cell therapy is an exciting new treatment, and new benefits of using stem cells are discovered on a regular basis. As a result, some clinics are making claims of healing that, scientifically, they may not be able to support. It’s important to be as informed as possible when you make your decision. Know how to ask the right questions to ensure you get the treatment – and the results – you’re looking for. Always make the best decision for your health, and don’t be afraid to ask to speak to former patients to learn about their firsthand experience.
The more experience a physician has performing a procedure, the lower risk of complications. Ask how long the doctors have been working with stem cells and how many procedures have been performed at the clinic.
Since stem cell therapy is a relatively new procedure, the clinic should be collecting data on each procedure, patient follow-up visits, and patient outcomes. You should be able to get information for patients whose outcome was fantastic and those for whom the results were less than expected.
Doctors who treat patients using stem cells should have background and expertise in treating your specific condition, especially using injection techniques. Preferably, they should be board certified in the field.
The stem cells used in orthopedics are different from those that may be used to treat cancer or cardiac issues. The best location of stem cells for orthopedic use to heal cartilage and bone is bone marrow, and imaging guidance will help confirm that the physician is taking the stem cells from the most plentiful source.
After the bone marrow is removed from the patient, the stem cells are typically concentrated, or separated from the bone marrow. In some clinics, they may be cultured to grow more stem cells before they are injected into the patient. Find out what the clinic does and why, and how the physicians know they are getting the maximum number of stem cells possible.
To ensure that the stem cells are ending up where they can do the most good, the physician should use some type of imaging guidance. Ask what the physicians use and why, since different types of imaging methods, such as fluoroscopy and ultrasound, work better under different circumstances.
Some types of local anesthetics that may be injected into the joint to lessen the pain of the injection can actually kill stem cells. Find out if the physician does use an anesthetic that would come in contact with the stem cells and, if so, whether that anesthetic is proven not to harm the stem cells.
Stem cells are a form of biologic medicine that can be used to help a body heal itself – they are not the magic answer. The quantity of stem cells in each person is different, as is the severity of each injury. Ask the physician, based on experience, what kinds of results you may expect. A good answer will be one that’s detailed and thoughtful, and provides no guarantees. If you are told that you will be completely healed no matter what, we suggest you look for a different clinic that will be honest and forthright about the healing process.