03 Apr Most Common Stem Cell Misconceptions and Myths
“The use of Stem Cell Therapy is illegal in the USA”:
False: The FDA has not made stem cell same day use illegal within the USA. However, what is considered illegal to do within the USA would be if you were to take a patient’s stem cells and alter them (typically done by culturing and multiplying the number of cells) before injecting them into the target region (eg: joint, spine, ligament, etc). This would essentially be a 2 part procedure with the first part being the removal of the stem cells (typically from the bone marrow, fat, or embryonic tissue), and the 2ndpart being the multiplying and re-injection of these cells into the target area. Many of the places that offer stem cell injections overseas are doing this approach. Please also note that the same day stem cell treatments used for numerous ailments are NOT considered FDA approved yet, but this does not make them illegal to use. At Principal Spine and Pain Consultants, we only do same day stem cell injections and do not use any product that is not FDA approved.
“All Stem Cells Are The Same”:
False: Stem cells can come from a variety of different sources including embryonic, bone marrow (what we most commonly use), and adipose (fat) tissue. At PPSC (Principal Spine and Pain Consultants) we tend to use only stem cells derived from a patient’s own bone marrow concentrate.
“Stem Cells Carry the Risk of Rejection”
False: Since most places (including PPSC) focus on autologous (derived from one’s self) stem cell products, the risk of rejection is essentially almost non-existent. Our process involves taking a patient’s own bone marrow (typically from the iliac bone), spinning it down to concentrate the actual stem cells, and then injecting that back into the area of pain/inflammation. As stated before, this is all done the same day and with sedation for patient comfort.
‘Stem Cell Treatment is the Cure All for Everything”
False: Stem cell therapies are definitely becoming a game changer to the medical field. However, stem cell procedures are certainly not the answer to every degenerative condition. It is crucial to have the right expectations as a patient. Hips with bony encroachment on the joint space, large disc herniations causing sciatica, and knees with severely asymmetric degeneration are some examples of conditions that typically will not respond as well to stem cell therapy. Similarly, stem cell treatments may have the potential to heal a tear in a rotator cuff tendon or ACL when the tear is partial, but not when the tear is full. PPSC puts an emphasis on educating potential patients and helping them make well-informed treatment decisions.
“Stem Cell Therapy Is as Difficult a Recovery as Invasive Surgery”
False: Stem cell therapy for joint pain is an excellent example of the ease with which patients can potentially improve pain and mobility while avoiding an invasive joint replacement surgery. The stem cell procedure is performed in an outpatient setting. Patients typically return to work within a day or two and they resume physical activity much faster than after invasive surgery. The entire procedure takes 3-4 hours and no general anesthesia is used (we do use iv sedation for patient comfort). Most patients do not require post-operative pain medication but if needed we do prescribe this for patients as well.
“Stem Cell Therapy is Unproven”
False: There are many patients who would potentially be great candidates to undergo a stem cell procedure for the treatment of orthopedic injuries, and who, due to a lack of confidence in these therapies, have not taken advantage of the opportunity to help with the pain to their damaged joints and discs. These promising therapies have now been utilized in clinical practice to treat degenerative knees, hips, shoulders and lumbar discs for more than five years and are demonstrating excellent results. Patients are seeing marked reduction in pain as well as improvement in cartilage quality. There are a number of studies that have been published in the regenerative medicine and orthopedic literature demonstrating positive results from stem cell therapies. These procedures are quickly becoming a first line treatment for degenerative joint disease and discogenic low back pain, providing a minimally invasive option to avoid invasive surgical repair. If you are looking at joint replacement or spinal fusion surgery as your only option, you should definitely consider stem cell therapy as an option as well. As stated above, PPSC puts an emphasis on educating potential patients and helping them make well-informed treatment decisions.
“Stem Cell Therapy Will Regenerate Lost Tissue”
Inconclusive: Most studies do not show a direct regeneration of lost cartilage or tissue from stem cell therapy. However, almost all patients have reported significant reduction in their pain since stem cell therapy. It is still inconclusive as to how much stem cells can help regenerate lost joint space, lost disc height, lost cartilage, etc. However, we do know that stem cell therapy can and will improve blood flow to the area treated along with causing the release of multiple growth factor that will help in the process of healing and pain.
Adult autologous stem cell therapies hold great promise for the future of medicine because of their potential to minimize pain, improve cartilage health, improve lumbar discs or facet joints, as well as help heal soft tissue damage. The ability to utilize stem cells from one’s own body to safely and naturally treat many different patient ailments is beginning to revolutionize healthcare. With more public support and cooperative regulatory policies, adult stem cells have the potential to forever change the healthcare landscape.
*Individual patient results may vary.