Thinking of Stem Cell Therapy? Here Are the Nine Most Important Questions to Ask When Interviewing A Physician.
1. Who will be performing the procedure?
Look for a licensed and board-certified medical doctor to perform your stem cell procedure. Make sure that you are to receive living cells! Some clinics have been calling their treatments “stem cell therapy” when in fact, all they provide is PRP! While PRP is often an excellent regenerative medicine procedure, it is not stem cell therapy!!
2. Have you received any specialized training in stem cell therapy?
To avoid receiving substandard care, seek out a physician who has completed a Fellowship or other advanced training in stem cell therapy that provides Continuing Medical Education credits from an accredited body.
3. What is your medical specialty?
It would be important to know what kind of doctor is performing the procedure. Orthopedics? Surgeon? Plastic surgeon? Internist? Rheumatologist, etc. I have heard of ophthalmologist and plastic surgeons doing these things, so it really matters what type of specialist is doing the job.
4. How long have you been practicing Stem Cell Therapy?
As with any specialty, a combination of training and practical experience of at least twelve months is best.
5. Am I a good candidate for stem cell therapy?
Patients seeking relief from joint pain, swelling and stiffness, arthritis or tendonitis as well patients with other musculoskeletal disorders, rheumatoid and inflammatory arthritis, autoimmune disease, and multiple sclerosis are candidates for stem cell therapy. Stem cell therapies have been used for many conditions, ranging from arthritis to muscular dystrophy, macular degeneration, and even ADHD! So, it is important to not only consider whether I am a good candidate for Stem Cells, but is the condition in question itself suitable for stem cell therapy.
6. Do you have any Stem Cell Therapy patients, similar to me, who are willing to speak with me?
If possible, talk to patients who have received stem cell therapy so you can hear their first- hand experiences.
7. Are you using my stem cells or another source?
There are two types of stem cells, those taken from the patient’s bone marrow or fat (“autologous”) OR stem cells from an outside source such as umbilical cord blood, placental tissue or amniotic fluid. It is extremely important to understand the source material and to be sure that you will be receiving living stem cells. Many products,( including cosmetic anti-wrinkle creams!) have been labeled as containing stem cells and even some of the amniotic membrane tissue products have bene labeled as such, but there are no living stem cells in these materials, even though they may in many cases be helpful!
8. Can you please explain the entire process of harvesting ( if applicable) and injecting stem cells?
If your stem cells are harvested from adipose tissue ( ie using your own, autologous cells), the entire process may take up to three hours. First, fat is harvested via liposuction using local anesthesia. Next, the cells are processed to extract the stem cells from the tissue sample through a series of steps in which the fat and fat cells are removed, along with fibrous tissue, and the remaining cells, called “stromal vascular fraction” are washed and suspended in platelet rich plasma(PRP). These cells include not only mesenchymal stem cells, but numerous other progenitor and healing cells that are essential for tissue regeneration. During this time the patient rests and recovers from the liposuction procedure. In the case of bone marrow -derived cellular therapy, a bone marrow sample is collected from the pelvic bone in your back using local anesthesia. The process of stem cell isolation from the bone marrow sample is similar but requires fewer steps and takes about 90 minutes. Finally, your stem cells will be re-introduced into your body by either direct injection into the problem area and/or via IV infusion.
9. Are you affiliated with any stem cell organizations?
Physicians providing stem cell therapy affiliated with a stem cell organization or research program will follow strict procedural protocols that have been developed to help protect the patient. Research programs should be IRB-approved. Under FDA regulations, an IRB, or Institutional Review Board, is responsible for reviewing all research (whether funded or not) involving human participants. The FDA has not made a final determination regarding their position on regulating adipose-derived stem cell protocols, so any clinic providing such treatment should be involved in an IRB-approved research protocol. Bone marrow derived stem cell treatments do not require participation in a research protocol.