You may have noticed over the last couple of years that many offices are opening up claiming to be a stem cell or regenerative medicine clinic. Because of this, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation about Regenerative Medicine. Two questions that we get a lot are; Are all stem cells the same? Does it matter who injects the stem cells?
The answer to the first question is a resounding NO!! Many of these offices are pushing “stem cells” that come out of a vial. They are either amniotic fluid and/or tissue or umbilical cord fluid and/or tissue. There are many issues with these products. The most important of these issues is that there are no stem cells in them, so calling them such is misinformation. Even the companies that sell the product to the doctor are no longer allowed to call them stem cells. Even if there were some cells in there, many of these products are delivered frozen and multiple studies have shown that when these products are thawed, any cells that we’re alive, die in the process. The FDA has sent letters to all of these companies warning them about selling these products and making false claims. In addition, because these products are made in a lab that is not FDA approved, there have been cases of contamination of these products leading to multiple infections.
The only way to truly get stem cells for orthopedic treatments is either through your own bone marrow or adipose tissue (fat). The companies that sell the other products will try and tell patients that if they are older their stem cells aren’t any good anymore and that’s why their product is better. The reality is that is just not true. While it is true that there are fewer stem cells in your bone marrow and they are a little less active as you age, there are several studies that show that there is little to no difference in the effect it has on treatment, even in your 80’s and beyond. It is also true that the more health issues you have, your stem cells may not be as potent, however, it is still better than getting a product that really has no stem cells at all. At Apex Center for Regenerative Medicine, we use the most advanced technology to harvest your bone marrow and have great success, even in much older patients.
Along with the fact they are using products without any stem cells, many of these places make claims about the results that just aren’t true. I am sure many of you have seen ads that show a picture of a bone on bone knee X-ray with a picture of an X-ray with a big joint space next to it. Can stem cells grow cartilage like that? The answer is no. If there is already cartilage in the knee, like in mild or moderate arthritis, there is a chance that stem cells can regrow some cartilage. This does not always happen and does not need to happen in order to get good results. The main way stem cells work is by changing the environment of the knee and removing all of the chronic inflammation, which is what causes your pain and breaks down the cartilage faster. It will also help your knee to lubricate itself which will also slow down the progression of arthritis. This is why even patients with bone on bone arthritis can still have great results, with no pain, a better range of motion and greater function. As the world of regenerative medicine progresses, we may one day soon be able to restore all of the cartilage but if anyone is telling you they can do that now, it is not true.
Just as important as the quality of the product that is used, is the training of the person who is injecting. There are many places that do these injections without any guidance at all, what we call a blind injection. With a blind injection, the doctor or other provider just palpates the area and injects it into where they think is the right place. Obviously injecting this way with a cause many injections to miss their mark and not have the intended effect. It is my belief that all injections should be performed guided, but this is even more true with stem cells as these injections have to be placed precisely in order to work and patients are paying out of pocket for these procedures.
If that is the case, you may ask why would anyone perform these injections blindly? The answer is simply that these offices do not have a doctor who is properly trained in performing guided injections. Both ultrasound and fluoroscopic guidance take a lot of training to be performed properly. Even some places say they perform ultrasound, but all they do is take a picture and then inject blindly. Dr. Savarino performs all of his injections under ultrasound guidance. He has received his RMSK, which means he has received the highest level of ultrasound training and passed a board exam for ultrasound. Dr. Savarino prefers ultrasound over flouro for most areas because only ultrasound shows you all the tissues, like the ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and joint space, and sometimes some of these other areas have to be injected as well to get the best results.
At Apex Center for Regenerative Medicine, Dr. Savarino only uses the best and most cutting-edge procedures to help you feel better and avoid surgery. He also explains all of your options in detail and will let you know if stem cell therapy is even the right treatment for you.