The use of stem cell and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections for knee osteoarthritis (OA) is extremely controversial and at best experimental. These treatments are being given to patients across the nation for “cash only payments”. Our objectives were (1) to determine the proportion of board certified orthopedic surgeons who offer stem cell or PRP treatment for knee OA, (2) how much the practices charge for those treatments and (3) if members of the knee society use these therapies.
Board certified orthopedic surgeons’ offices in our county were identified by their AAOS active membership. Knee society membership roll was also utilized. Offices were contacted by telephone and presented with a hypothetical patient with end stage knee osteoarthritis searching for specific treatment (stem cells or PRP injections). T-test was used to compare the Dade county board certified orthopedists to knee society members.
A total of 186 board certified orthopedic surgeons’ offices were contacted. 17.6% of all contacted orthopedics offices offered PRP and 12.5% offered stem cell treatments. 61.2% of the offices were transparent on the pricing of PRP while 31.8% gave a price for stem cell therapy. The remaining practices stated that pricing would be “determined or discussed” during a scheduled visit. Mean cost for a PRP injection was $887 (SE 101; range: $350–$1700) and for a stem cell injection was $2800 (SE 852; range: $1000–$6000). Usage of these therapies amongst general AAOS members and Knee Society members was found to be significantly different for both PRP and stem cells (17% vs. 10%; p<0.001 and 26% vs. 13%; p<0.001, respectively). No practice had a “free” research protocol to study the treatments.
Biological injectables as a treatment for knee OA has theoretical potential promise in the management of arthritis but continues to be at best investigational. Knee Society members demonstrated significantly more caution using these treatments.