Stem Cell Injections

Q: Dr. Eppley, I have an atrophic abdominal scar, similar to a C-Section. It was due to surgery at an early age (I am male). There are two potential solutions to it. One is subcision to release the scar from being tethered to the underlying muscle fascia. The other is autologous stem cell injection at the scar site, something which I am not sure has been done before on this particular issue although I have seen nearly miraculous results on other injuries such as major burns.

With my scar, the surface of the scar is not bad, it is just tethered down. This creates a deformed appearance resulting in a major impact on quality of life. If it was level with the rest of my stomach then it would be hardly noticeable. However, stem cells could theoretically remove the scar permanently.

Please let me know if you can help.

A: Thank you for your inquiry. Let me provide some clarification on the concept of stem cell injections. Such a procedure in the purest sense of the term does not exist in the U.S. unless done under FDA-approved clinical trials for very specific study indications. Many people throw the term around like they are doing stem injections when they are not. It is strictly forbidden to harvest any cells from patients, modify them in any form and put them back into a patient. What is being done widely are fat injections which are erroneously touted, for marketing purposes, as ‘stem cell injections’ or even ‘stem cell enriched fat injections’. Fat coincidentally contains a lot of stem cells so all fat injections do have a high number of coincidental stem cells as part of it. How many are transferred with the fat, how many survive and what they do after transfer are all completely unknown. But to label fat injections as a true stem cell injections is misleading.

That being said fat injections can be done for scar releases in cases of contracted scars like yours. Their success, like all fat injections, depends on adequate scar release and a percent of the actual fat injectate surviving…whether that is due to some influence of its stem cell component can be debated. 

Whether such an injection technique would be appropriate for your abdominal scar would require an assessment of pictures of it.

Dr. Barry Eppley
Indianapolis, Indiana