One of the largest determining factors for individuals seeking treatment for their pain is cost. Cost influences the types of treatments a person can apply, the distance they can travel to apply those treatments, and the quality of the treatments once they’ve arrived at their destination.
Unfortunately for most individuals, the cost is often the limiting factor in approaching their pain. If they can’t find up-to-date, quality information, then they can’t make the best decision for their particular injury.
In an effort to help educate individuals interested in stem cell therapy, CELLAXYS has outlined some of the largest determining factors and their effects on the cost of these therapies below.
If a treatment is not available in a person’s geographic region or if a provider will not treat them based on insurance or other similar issues, then they cannot access it, simple as that. In particular, these issues tend to affect rural areas the most. These areas tend to be “cold zones” for specialty treatments such as stem cell therapy so residents typically need to travel elsewhere to apply these types of treatments.
In the US, stem cell therapies are still undergoing the rigorous process for full approval by the FDA.
This has led to the advent of medical tourism to countries outside of the US in order to have many of these treatments applied.
China, Israel, and Germany are among the leading countries for stem cell research and the average cost of stem cell therapy in these countries reflects that. It is oftentimes cheaper for a person to fly into these countries, stay for a period of time, and come back once the treatment is applied.
While this may be an option for some, outstanding factors such as taking time off work, cultural barriers, and the severity of one’s pain may limit a person’s ability to travel outside of the US for these treatments.
In a report published in 2018 on the Niche, a leading medical blog in the stem cell arena, 500 patients self-reported the costs of their stem cell therapy throughout the US. The report found that at 33.1%, most patients paid between $2,500 and $7,500 for their treatment. The study did not place constraints on the type or number or treatments administered either.
Consultation fees, preliminary examinations, and medical imaging are all tied into the overarching cost of any type of treatment. Luckily, most of these costs are typically covered under a standard insurance policy and will require little to no monetary support from a patient.
These tests typically come before a patient reaches the point of attempting alternative medicines such as regenerative therapy, but if they do not, the costs are fairly low, averaging less than $250 for all preliminary checks.
Depending on the extensiveness of the test performed and how long ago they were performed, doctors in regenerative therapy clinics may need to run further diagnostics in order to examine the progression of the injury and the condition of the surrounding structures. These tests may not be covered under an individual’s insurance policy and costs vary depending on geographic region.
Location of Pain
The source of a person’s pain is another very prominent determining factor in the cost of their treatment. The location – back, knees, feet, arms – determines how many different structures are contributing to a person’s pain and this will affect how complex treatment will be.
For instance, if the pain is derived from a single joint, the treatment should be fairly simple and cost less. But if the problem affects the surrounding structures – muscle tissue, ligaments, tendons – the treatment becomes multifaceted and costs increase.
Based on pretreatment examinations, doctors will determine the severity of the issue and get an approximation of the structures involved and the complexity of the treatment necessary.
Single joint treatments will cost the least amount of money, followed by treatments for a single joint and its surrounding structures, multiple joints, and multiple joints and their surrounding structures.
To get an idea of the cost of your particular issue, we can use the knee as an example. Pain emanating from the knee typically involves the surrounding structures as well. This means the treatment would be for a single joint (the knee) and it’s surrounding structures (the ligaments, tendons, and muscles which support the joint).
According to HealthLine.com, “a review of multiple medical institutions revealed an average cost for stem cell treatment for knees of approximately $3,000 to $5,000 per knee, depending largely on geographical location.”
This particular treatment is in the median range of cost, affecting only a single joint and its surrounding structures. It is safe to say a treatment for multiple joints will be about the same, a treatment for a single joint without the surrounding structures would be less, and treatment for multiple joints and their surrounding structures would be more.
Type of Injury / Preexisting Conditions
Along with the location of pain, the type of conditions that cause it may also affect the end cost of an individual’s stem cell therapy. Damage from a fall or other acute injuries will typically mean there are several structures involved. Additionally, if the wound did not heal properly and caused malformations, this may also affect the success of the treatment or may call for more radical approaches.
Treating degenerative illnesses such as arthritis, tendonitis, and osteoarthritis with stem cell therapy will relieve the pain individual experiences for upwards of 6 months but will require further treatments as the illness continues to progress.
If an acute injury or degenerative illness is localized to a single area, treatments will be less complex and therefore less expensive.
Type of Treatment
The type of stem cell therapy performed has an impact on the overall cost of the procedure. Stem cells can be derived from birth tissues (typically amniotic fluid or umbilical cord blood) or bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue and each option comes with a different price tag.
Birth tissue treatments are typically much cheaper than their stem cell counterparts but have been shown to have a much smaller impact on a person’s pain. Furthermore, while many clinics offer these treatments as stem cell therapies, these claims tend to be false as studies have shown that many of the source materials are nonviable, meaning the stem cells did not survive in transit.
That being said, birth tissue treatments do provide some benefit as they are full of growth factors that can help the body heal quicker, but do not impart the same regenerative capabilities as stem cell treatments.
On the other hand, stem cell treatments typically come in two varieties, same-day injections and culture-expanded injections. In addition to these varieties, the cells can either be analogous, meaning they come directly from the patient or autologous, meaning they come from a donor.
Once the source material is extracted from a patient or donor, the material can either be processed and injected the same day or it can be processed and allowed to cultivate for a period of several weeks.
The cultivation process ensures that there are more healthy stem cell tissues present for a patient’s injection and thus boosts the effectiveness of the treatment. Same day injections are still a viable option, however, they are slightly less effective.
Additionally, cells are taken from a donor typically run with further risks. Depending on the quality of the third party that sells the stem cells, these donated cells can be mishandled in transit or be rejected by a patient due to their low quality. According to cancer.org, the effects of autologous stem cell injections tend to be minimal compared with analogous samples and the risks may be much higher.
Here is a simple cost comparison followed by the effects of each treatment overtime:
Type of Application
The method of applying stem cells is also tied to the cost of a person’s therapy. The most common application methods are blind injections and guided injections.
Blind injections are simply those without the use of medical imaging technology. If pain has been localized to a single area and previous medical images have shown that area clearly, then doctors may find a blind injection that will work perfectly.
Though blind injections can provide some relief, their effects are minimal compared to guided injections. Additionally, some studies suggest that even experienced physicians have difficulty identifying superficial joints. Carry these risks with those of lackluster source tissue and the effects of untrained stem cell therapists and a person will likely be disappointed with the results of a stem cell injection.
On the other hand, most specialized stem cell clinics perform their injections using in-house medical imaging technologies. Using a special version of an x-ray with real-time images (fluoroscopy) or through the use of ultrasound, trained stem cell clinicians will be able to ensure that the injections reach the points where they’ll have the most impact on a person’s pain.
If an injury or condition affects multiple areas and those areas are nestled deep within a person’s body, guided imaging injections are preferred.
Typically, guided injections will cost more than blind injections as they require multiple areas of expertise to be performed and are much more effective.
The administering party in a stem cell injection also makes a difference, both to the cost and the effectiveness of the treatment.
With the rise of mesenchymal stem cells, many clinics have adapted and begun to offer their own form of stem cell therapy. Typically, practices that do not specialize in stem cell treatments must source their cells from a 3rd party (autologous stem cells). They must either use blind injections or outsource the patient for a guided injection.
A patient looking for stem cell treatments for pain caused by soft tissue damage would be wise to seek out a specialized clinic or run the risks associated with untrained applications of substandard tissues.
Specialized clinics not only have the means to extract and culture stem cell tissues themselves, but they will also typically have trained specialists using advanced imaging equipment to administer the treatments. This experience and use of guided imaging can go a long way as shown throughout this article.
Although specialized clinics tend to be more expensive than general hospitals, studies have shown that for handling specific types of treatments – such as stem cell therapy – specialized clinics tend to have better service quality, patient experiences, and treatment options for their patients.
Ideally, the need would be the only determining factor in a person’s healthcare costs, but this is not the case. Location, type of injury, and geographic location all have an impact on how much a person stands to pay for their particular stem cell therapy.
There are many options available to those looking to relieve their pain through regenerative medicines and examining the costs of each is vital to ensuring they get the most out of each treatment. If you would like specifics about costs of stem cell therapy for treatments at Cellaxys, contact our offices today to set up a free consultation.