There is no shortage of clinics out there offering stem cell therapy. How much does stem cell therapy cost? How much is too much? Are you getting what you pay for? Let’s dig in.
Types of Treatments
Our focus here on stem cell therapy cost is for orthopedic procedures as that’s our area of expertise and something where we can benchmark and compare apples to apples. However, before we can get into that, we must first discuss different types of treatment, which can be broken down into a couple of categories. Stem cell therapy cost generally depends on:
- What’s being injected?
- Who is performing the procedure?
- Where is the procedure being performed?
- How is the procedure performed?
- How many areas are being injected?
You’ll see dollar signs below by each item in each category which I’ll explain how to use later.
What’s Being Injected?
What’s being injected is critical to determining stem cell therapy cost. However, who is injecting it and where the procedure is performed and other details will modify these costs. We can break this part down into:
- Birth tissues like amniotic fluid or umbilical cord blood – $
- A same-day bone marrow or fat procedure – $$
- A culture-expanded stem cell procedure – $$$
Numbers 1 and 2 here are procedures where all of the injections are performed on the same day, while number 3 takes a few weeks to grow cells. The advertised cost of birth tissue procedures and same-day bone marrow or fat procedures are similar, usually in the 4-8K USD range. However, this is where we find our biggest opportunity for patient rip-offs. Let me explain.
The biggest problem that we encounter in these same-day stem cell procedures is when the product has no live cells, let alone stem cells. Multiple studies now by university and private scientists demonstrate that the amniotic fluid and umbilical cord products being hawked at seminars all over the US are all non-viable tissue. So, right upfront, you’re actually getting massively overcharged if a clinic claims that this is a stem cell procedure. In fact, these birth tissue procedures are more similar to platelet-rich plasma injections as both contain growth factors that can help healing, but neither contain stem cells. PRP procedures run in 1-2K range for a single joint, so that’s the appropriate price range for birth tissue procedures. To find out more about the issue with birth tissues being advertised as stem cells, see my video below:
Culture-expanded cells are grown to bigger numbers over 1-3 weeks and then injected. These procedures can not be performed legally in the US, so they are performed in other countries like the Cayman Islands, Panama, parts of Europe, or China as examples. They generally run 15-30K.
Who is Performing the Procedure?
Stem cell therapy cost should be tied to who performs these procedures. Which medical providers commonly inject the cells?
- Mid-levels like NPs and PAs – $
- Physician specialists – $$
We regrettably don’t see a big correlation between stem cell therapy cost and the level of training of the provider performing the procedure. For example, a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician’s assistant (PA) has about half of the training of the average physician specialist, but the cost of a stem cell procedure performed by a nurse is often similar to a specialist physician. Obviously, a medical provider with far less training should cost less than one with twice the training.
Where is the Procedure Being Performed?
Stem cell therapy cost is often tied to the location where the procedure is performed. For example:
- Alternative health clinics – $
- Medical clinics – $$
One of the most interesting things out there in the world of stem cell procedures is that we see procedures being performed outside of medical clinics and hospitals, often in alternative medicine clinics. The issue is that the level of sterility, regulation, safety equipment, and technology is higher in a medical setting, but often alternative health clinics run by chiropractors, naturopaths, and acupuncturists charge just as much or more than actual medical clinics who have better technology and more highly trained staff. Hence, a procedure in a place that’s barely capable of supporting you as a patient if something goes wrong should cost much less than a place designed to help you with the latest technology and most highly trained staff.
How is the Procedure Performed?
Stem cell therapy cost should also be tied to how the procedure is performed and commonly there a few treatment delivery types out there:
- IV injection – $
- Blind injection into a joint, tendon. ligaments, or muscles – $
- Ultrasound or x-ray guided procedures – $$
Starting an IV doesn’t take much expertise. In addition, if you get stem cells intravenous, 97% will end up in your lungs and few will end up where you have pain, Hence, you need to inject them locally. One way to do that would be to inject them blind, without imaging guidance, which also takes little expertise. However, there is no way to tell if the cells got to where they were supposed to be placed. Finally, you can use imaging guidance to ensure that the cells will get to the right spot. That’s either ultrasound or fluoroscopy (real-time x-ray) or both. As a rule, you should pay much less for an IV or blind injection and more for an image-guided injection.
How Many Areas are Being Injected?
Stem cell therapy cost is often directly tied to the number of spots that get injected. For example:
- Single joint- $
- Single joint plus ligaments and/or tendons/muscles – $$
- Multiple joints – $$
- Multiple joints plus ligaments and/or tendons/muscles – $$$
Most clinics that inject joints to treat arthritis will inject simply into the joint, which should cost less as that’s less work. Some clinics will also inject multiple structures within the joint or around it, adding time and expertise to the procedure. Injecting multiple joints would be a similar increase in work. Finally, some clinics will also inject multiple areas in and around multiple joints, which would be the most expensive.
How to Use the Above Stem Cell Therapy Price Guide
To figure out the stem cell therapy cost take the price range above and apply the dollar sign modifiers. So single dollar signs should push you toward the low end of the price range and double or triple towards the higher end. Now let’s take some concrete examples.
Let’s Look at Some Examples
Example 1: A common “stem cell” procedure performed in a local chiropractor’s office.
- What’s being injected? Birth tissues – $
- Who is performing the procedure?-Nurse Practitioner – $
- Where is the procedure being performed?-Chiropractic Clinic – $
- How is the procedure being performed?-IV plus blind Injection – $
- How many areas are being injected?-One knee – $
As discussed above, the right price for birth tissues is about what you would pay for PRP, so that’s 1-2K. All of these single dollars signs would push you toward a cost that’s lower than the average stem cell therapy price. Hence, this is about a 1-2K procedure.
Now let’s go to the other end of that spectrum: A bone marrow concentrate procedure delivered by a physician specialist in a medical office:
- What’s being injected? Same-Day Bone Marrow – $$
- Who is performing the procedure?-Physician Specialist – $$
- Where is the procedure being performed?-Medical Clinic – $$
- How is the procedure being performed?-Image Guided Injection – $$
- How many areas are being injected?-One knee plus ligaments and/or tendons/muscles – $$
Same day bone marrow stem cell procedures run in the 4-8K range. All of these two dollars signs would push you toward the higher end of that range.
You Get What You Pay For
Obviously, we have dramatic differences in what I priced out above. The chiro clinic with a nurse injecting birth tissues blindly in a clinic not designed for this type of work is a lower quality affair. The opposite is true with my second example. So like anything else in life, you get what you pay for.
Want to Learn More?
To learn more about how to choose the right stem cell clinic based on quality, read my mini-book on the topic (click on the book cover to download the PDF):
The upshot? Figuring out stem cell therapy cost is not that hard, you just need to know what it is you’re buying. Just like that fake Gucci purse that looks good but falls apart in a few months, or that real one that lasts a lifetime, how much you spend is usually associated with the quality of what you buy. However, use the dollar signs to see if the stem cell procedure you’re buying is over or underpriced!