Stem Cells and Platelet Rich Plasma – Commonly Asked Questions

 In Cartilage, Knee Injuries, Research

Which is better, PRP or Stem cells?  How about both?

We don’t have this answer.  Research has shown that both procedures are generally effective regarding accelerated healing and pain control.

How many injections are required?

This is the subject of ongoing study.  Most stem cell studies report on a single injection.  Many PRP studies report on several injections, separated by weeks, though the evidence has not demonstrated that multiple injections are clearly superior to a single injection.

If I have a stem cell injection in my arthritic knee, will it grow new cartilage?  

Studies have shown that focal areas of cartilage damage heal with improved characteristics when supplemented with stem cells.  However, the effect of biologic injections is thought to be more of a pain control mechanism than a cartilage re-growth mechanism. If you have a bone-on-bone joint, it is very unlikely that a stem cell injection will re-establish a new layer if cartilage.  One may, however, achieve significant pain control for a period of time.

How long will the effect of a biologic injection last?

This is variable according to the degree of tissue or joint damage.

Studies have shown that the pain-controlling effects of a stem cell injection may last for 1or 2 years or longer.

How fast do these injections work?

This is variable according to the degree of tissue or joint damage.  Although the cells may well go to work immediately, the effects may take a period of time to be appreciated. The effects of an injection in an acutely injured muscle may be in days.  Whereas most clinicians believe that a degenerative joint may take 1 to 2 months before one can expect to appreciate clinical improvement.

Which stem cell preparation is preferable; BMAC, Adipose or Amniotic?

Stem cells are naturally in many parts and tissues of the body.  There are numerous types of PRP or stem cell preparations—currently, the literature does not favor one type over the other. There is vigorous debate over which stem cell type has superior bioactivity and regenerative potential. Questions yet to be answered; which preparation provides the greatest number of stem cells, the most viable cells, or the scaffold on which the cells can propagate?   This will certainly be the subject of ongoing investigation.

What does the research show?

Stem cells are a hot button concept in medicine these days.  Stem cell products are being used in orthopedics with regularity, despite the fact that we do not fully understand their efficacy.  It could be years before we have all the answers.

There are many reports of success with stem cells and PRP, though the number of high quality research studies are lacking.  With few exceptions, the literature is favorable to the outcomes of stem cells in orthopedic conditions.  The adverse effects are reported to be negligible.

Are biologic injections covered by insurance and how much does it cost?

At the present time, most insurance policies do not cover biologic injections. Speak to you physician’s office regarding the price profile, which varies according to the product and procedure used.

Do I make an appt for a PRP or stem cell injection?

A screening appointment is necessary to first determine if you are a candidate for a biologic injection.  This may involve Xrays and possibly an MRI.  It can then be determined if biologic therapy is appropriate for you.  A separate appointment for the procedure is arranged.

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PRP & Stem Cell Treatment