Stem Cell Seminars: 7 Questions to Separate Real from Hype

There’s been an explosion in clinics offering stem cells for orthopedic treatments in the last few years. The most aggressive blanket major metro areas, taking out full-page ads on the front pages of major newspapers, putting on large stem cell seminars that double as high-pressure sales events. As a consumer, especially one making medical decisions that will affect your health, it’s imperative that you know whether or not a stem cell offering at a seminar is legitimate. So how can you separate what’s real from what’s hype?

7 Key Questions to Ask at Stem Cell Seminars

1. What Kind of Stem Cells Do You Use?

Ask this question first because if they tell you they use amniotic or cord-blood stem cells, this is a scam, and there’s no need to stick around for the seminar. Our research and that of third parties shows that amniotic and cord “stem cells” are actually dead tissue products with no live stem cells.

2. What Type of Imaging Guidance Do You Use to Inject the Cells?

If they claim that they don’t use any guidance and that the cells just magically find their way via blind injections to where they’re supposed to go, that’s not a credible orthopedic stem cell therapy. A credible therapy uses guidance, like ultrasound or fluoroscopy, to place the stem cells exactly where they need to be.

3. Who Injects the Cells?

The provider should be an MD or DO provider (i.e., a licensed physician) and not a physician’s assistant (PA) or nurse practitioner (NP). The doctor should be certified by an organization like the Interventional Orthopedics Foundation (IOF) to assure he or she knows how to properly perform these complex and precise injections.

4. At What Facility Will the Cells Be Injected?

A chiropractic office is not an appropriate place for an injection procedure. A clinic that is set up to perform orthopedic injections requires a properly equipped procedure suite containing at a minimum a musculoskeletal ultrasound to assure accurate stem cell placement; full surgical monitoring equipment to measure vital signs; advanced fluoroscopy for live imaging; and oxygen, an automated defibrillator, and a crash cart in case of an emergency (see the video above for an image of a properly equipped procedure suite).

5. Where’s the Published Clinical Research on Your Procedure?

There needs to be many clinical research studies with hundreds of patients each on their exact procedure. Pay close attention to the papers the clinic provides, supposedly supporting their procedure; they will throw papers at you that have nothing to do with the actual procedure they’re performing. I’ve reviewed vendors on this blog in the past that are pushing their products with these research bait-and-switch tactics. If the clinic does not provide published clinical studies showing the use of their exact product on hundreds of real patients, there is no supporting research on what they are offering or they would be providing it.

6. Who Is a Candidate?

If everyone who can pay is a candidate and there is no medical criteria or grading of good, fair, or poor, then that’s not appropriate. Every medical procedure ever devised has a candidacy grading for each patient, and candidacy grading for stem cell injection procedures should be no different. Why? Because knowing candidacy rating will tell patients how likely they are to respond to the procedure and can help them make the right decision.

7. How Many Patients Have Failed to Respond to Your Procedure?

The answer for a real medical procedure, including a stem cell procedure, should be “lots.” If they claim that nobody has ever failed or that it’s very rare that people fail this procedure, that’s not credible. All procedures, including injection procedures, have a failure rate.

The upshot? The answers to these 7 questions when attending stem cell seminars should give you a solid understanding of whether or not the seminar is being put on by a reputable clinic. You may actually find answers to many of these questions by simply searching the clinic’s website and save yourself a trip, but if you find yourself at the seminar, don’t fall for the sales pitch without asking these 7 questions to separate a real therapy from the hype.

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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