FAQs about stem cell therapy
Where do these stem cells come from?
Bone marrow is the source of stem cells that Dr. Lehman uses. She harvests the bone marrow stem cells (called BMAC) from the posterior iliac crest (the back of the hip).
What is the benefit of stem cell treatment?
Dr. Lehman uses BMAC injections primarily for painful joints and severely damaged tendons. These injections provide a non-surgical treatment option to provide long-lasting relief from chronic joint pain. The injections are performed under ultrasound guidance, as needed, to ensure proper placement of the stem cells.
What do published studies say about BMAC?
So far, we do not have robust clinical studies that have shown regrowth of damaged tissue, therefore, Dr. Lehman will not make that claim. There have been, however, many thousands of patients treated with this procedure who have had pain relief and functional improvement. Those patients have also shown that this is a relatively safe procedure with no increased risk of cancer.
Who is a candidate for this treatment?
In general, Stem Cell injections are performed for moderate osteoarthritis in the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle, or thumb, where there is not complete collapse of the joint space and not “bone on bone” changes. There are some medical issues (like lymphoma and leukemia) that will preclude you from having a stem cell procedure done.
How much does stem cell therapy cost?
The cost can vary but is estimated at $3,000-$4000 (for one joint). Stem Cell therapy is not covered by your insurance company. This is an out of pocket expense.
Who is not a candidate for this treatment?
- Patient with cancer history (such as prostate cancer or breast cancer), not in remission for at least 5 years
- Certain other malignancies or blood borne diseases that you are being treated for
- Patient with any current infection
- Patients on anticoagulation
- General procedural contraindication
- Patients with multiple medical issues may not be good candidates (low testosterone, low vitamin D, hypothyroidism, diabetes, smoker). This a partial list; there are other conditions that may limit your stem cell candidacy.
Which joints/body parts can stem cells be applied to?
Most often to the larger joints, such as hips and knees, but also shoulders, ankles and thumbs. Stem cell therapy is also an option for chronic tendon issues that have been resistant to other treatment (usually including PRP). Dr. Lehman does not treat neck or back conditions with stem cells or PRP.
Will this procedure regenerate cartilage in my joint?
There is some limited data suggesting an ability to regenerate cartilage in joints, but it also appears that whether or not the cartilage regenerates has little correlation with relief of pain. If there is significant spurring and significant loss of the joint space, there is little chance of cartilage regeneration.
What is the success rate of Stem Cell injections?
Most patients will have significant relief of pain around 1-2 months post injection. This will often continue to improve for the first 3-6 months after the stem cell procedure. There are patients who will not get any improvement at all from this procedure, probably around 10-20%. This is still an experimental treatment, and there have not been a lot of long term outcomes studies done so far so we are still figuring out who is an ideal candidate to have this done.
Does the treatment consist of one injection or multiple injections?
Typically one stem cell injection followed up 4-6 weeks later with a platelet rich plasma injection in the office. The protocol is continually evolving, so this is ultimately decided on a case-by-case basis.
Can I fly/drive home that day?
If you are flying (and you are not the pilot), you may fly home the same day, but there will be increased pain/discomfort after the procedure. If you are driving, you should have a driver, as there can be some mild to moderate discomfort in the first few hours following the procedure.
Where is this treatment offered?
Because of the potential for infection within the bone, this procedure is done in a clean environment in our office procedure room.
What should I do if I think I am a candidate?
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Lehman for an appointment to review your radiology films (x-rays), conduct a physical exam, and determine if you are a good candidate or not.
What about amniotic or umbilical cord stem cells?
Right now, this is quite controversial. Dr. Lehman feels that there is likely a potential with these products, but they are untested. It is unclear whether these cells are viable. Right now they are considered donor tissue and the FDA has warned suppliers not to label them “stem cells”. BMAC is by far the most used and understood source of stem cells and growth factors. The advantage with BMAC, as well, is that there is no risk of communicable disease.