I was very excited about this and seriously looked into it. I emailed back and forth with the doc who invented it. Basically it is microfracture with the added cartistem stuff, very expensive $20,000 and possibly another $10,000 or more if they needed more cartistem which they wouldn't know about until they had you open so your final bill will not be known until you wake up, so kinda scary. This price is for one knee and did not include the accommodation for 1 week at the hospital and airfare, etc. (see below) If you look closely at the study there isn't much difference in outcome from regular microfracture their poceedure (sorry I can't locate the abstract but I am sure you can find it or just ask them to send it to you). In fact, there is very little data and not that many subjects that I felt warranted the expense or the several months recovery. You are not allowed to put any weight on for at least 8 weeks then it is several months after that before you are functioning. They say 95% have at least 1 stage improvement. I pressed them a few times to tell me what percentage had better than 1 stage and they never responded. So if you are bone on bone stage 4 like me you will not be good as new and this would only be a stop gap at best. I would wait this one out and see what results they really have that are more verifiable.
In the meantime, I went from not being able to walk at all in December to functioning again with an off loader brace (total life saver) and 3 PRP injections so far. I am going to continue down this road until something good comes along. I know it just around the corner.
Here is my correspondence. Hope this helps.
Greetings from Samsung Medical Center!
I am writing about your inquiry of Cartistem tretment at Samsung Medical Center,
which you have discussed with Dr.Ha.
I understand that Dr.Ha already informed you of the treatment and the expected lengh of hospital stay.
The treatment costs approx. 19,000,000-21,000,000 KRW (19,000-21,000 USD) excluding room charges,
and about 7 day hospitalization is expected. Our room charges are as below.
Semi-private room :
KRW 322,000 ~ KRW 334,000 per night
Standard single room :
KRW 549,000 ~ KRW 780,000 per night
Deluxe suite :
KRW 810,000 ~ KRW 1,640,000 per night
KRW 28,500 per meal
** Please note that the costs given above are only rough estimations
and the information applies to standard cases only.
If your progressing condition requires further tests, this may alter the estimated costs.
Complication may also increase the cost of treatment and length of hospital stay.
** Depending on the size of damaged cartilage, your condition might require more than one cartisem medicine,
which will increase the cost. The estimated cost above is based on one cartisem.
1. Can you please let me know what the procedure is and what the expected outcome is.
Is it arthroscopic or is there cutting. If there is cutting how invasive is it. Are tendons or muscles cut?
--> The procedure involves transplantation of mesenchymal stem cell composite(stem cell combined with hyaluronate gel) into the cartilage defect area after making several 5mm diameter drilling of the subchondral bone(bone underlying the cartilage). The expected outcome is repair of the worn-out cartilage area by regeneration of articular cartilage tissue by the transplantation of the stem cells.
2. If I need more than one cartistem medicine what would be the price.
--> It is expected that addional charge of 9,000,000-10,000,000 KRW (9,000-10,000 USD) will be occured for each cartistem.
3. I have a paritial missing meniscus. Will this procedure grow the meniscus back?
--> Cartistem has shown to regenerate the missing articular cartilage. Regeneration of the meniscus is not the goal of Cartistem therapy. The patient's current problem seems to be mainly due to the worn out cartilage even still in relatively young age, not from the partially missing meniscus.
4. I also have pieces of free floating cartilage around my knee. Will the doctor remove these during the procedure?
--> Arthrscopic procedures such as debridement and, if needed, meniscus trimming etc. are ususally performed during the procedure before the transplantation of Cartistem.
5. How long will it take for the cartilage to grow back so that I can resume normal activities.
--> Limited weight bearing and walking with crutches or a walker is needed for 2-3 months after the surgery to protect the regenerating cartilagenous tissue. Usua activities of daily living can be performed without any walking support from 3 months after the surgery.
6. What was the success rate in the trials.
--> At least grade I improvement in ICRS cartilage assessment(International Cartilage Repair Society) was observed in more than 95 % of the cases in the phase 3 trials. Please refer to the attached file for the abstratct of the result of our clinical trial, presented in the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgerons annual meeting, 07-10, Feb, 2012, San Francisco, CA.
7. What kind of complications are you referring to?
--> No serious or unexpected adverse events was observed in the clinical trials. Also refer to the attached file for the abstratct of the result of our clinical trial.
8. Would Dr. Ha be performing the procedure? If so, how many of these procedures has he done?
--> Yes, Dr. ha will be performing the procedure by himself. He is the inventor and developer of Cartistem, and he has performed more than 20 cases so far by himself. This is the largest number of cases by a single surgeon, because the Cartistem is a new treatment method which has been approved by KFDA very recently.
9. How long do I need to stay in Korea until I can safely fly home.
--> Admission is needed for less than a week, and the patient can fly back home after discharge from hospital. Ambulation with crutches or a walker is needed. Compression stocking is needed for long time flight.
10. Will I need rehabilitation?
--> Special rehab program is basically not needed. Range of motion exercise and quadriceps muscle strengthening exercise will be educated and be performed at home by the patient himself/herself.
11.Are there english speaking staff to help with translation?
--> Yes, most medical staff including Dr.Ha speak English. If you have communication problem with other staff,
we, Internationla Health Services, will certainly provide translation services.
12. What is the difference between a Standard Single and a Deluxe suite.
--> Duluxe suite generally refers to VIP room which has better room facilities in bigger sizes.