Stem Cell Therapy vs. Knee Replacement – Cost Considerations


Imagine you have reached the upper limits of middle age and are now getting ready to enter what are supposed to be the golden years of retirement. Years of arthritis pain has led to you believe that you will not enjoy your retirement if you don’t do something about it. So what will you do? Undoubtedly you will consider the financial aspects of any decision you make.

People suffering from osteoarthritis are normally offered two recommend solutions: surgery or long-term pain medication. Surgery is most often recommended in cases in which a bone-on-bone condition is so severe that replacing the knee is believed to be the only practical way to relieve the pain. However, there is a third option in stem cell treatment.

Stem cell therapy is being recommended more often than ever before to treat osteoarthritis. It is recommended as an alternative to surgery, given that it is significantly less invasive and virtually risk-free. The only thing that seems to give patients pause is the cost. Does the cost of stem cell therapy warrant choosing it over surgical knee replacement?

A Cost Comparison

The Daily Press, a local newspaper published in Newport News, VA, recently looked at surgical knee replacement versus stem cell therapy from the cost aspect. Daily Press contributor Mark McFarland wanted to know if stem cell therapy had any real benefits in relation to the amount a patient would pay. His report shows stem cell therapy in a very good light.

In order to come up with his cost comparison, McFarlane looked at the whole host of things including:

  • physician consultations
  • pre-surgical lab work
  • hospital and office visits
  • procedure time
  • rehabilitation
  • loss of income
  • payments and co-payments.

The exact figures McFarland used are unknown in terms of their source. However, he was quick to point out that his cost comparison was for illustrative purposes only. He came up with a total cost of somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 per knee for the surgical procedure, compared to stem cell treatment at a cost of $2,000 to $5,000 per knee.

Other Considerations

If you take the cost of both procedures at their maximum value, stem cell therapy is half the cost of knee replacement. But there are other considerations here. First is the fact that there is no way to know what the average co-payment would be for knee replacement without actually contacting insurance companies. There are also questions of deductibles. If a patient had no serious claims in a given year, his or her entire deductible could be applicable to the surgery.

On the other hand, there does not appear to be a single health insurance company in the U.S. that covers stem cell therapy as a treatment for osteoarthritis. That means patients who choose this therapy bear the entire cost themselves. Based on the scenario offered at the start of this post, would it be cheaper for you to pay for stem cell therapy or cover the deductible and co-payment for knee replacement surgery?

The cost issue is something that Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) discusses with doctors during their PRP therapy and stem cell training courses. Doctors are made aware of the conundrum patients face, as well as the fact that the procedures are based on cash transactions that exclude insurance companies.

Now that you know little bit more about the costs of both stem cell therapy and knee replacement, which way would you go? If you are not quite sure, you’re not alone. ARMI says that this is the dilemma a lot of arthritis patients face every day.


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