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Connolly, R,O'Brien, T,Flaherty, G
Travel Medicine And Infectious Disease
Stem cell tourism - A web-based analysis of clinical services available to international travellers
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Stem cell tourism Travel medicine Online resources Medical tourism Patient welfare GLOBALIZATION
Background: Stem cell therapies are advertised through online resources which describe a range of treatments with diverse clinical indications. Stem cell tourists may not be aware of the information they should seek when consulting these clinics, or of the potential risks involved. The aim of this study was to characterise the therapies offered by online stem cell clinics.Methods: A web based search utilising five search terms was employed. The first twenty pages of each search result were screened against 340 variables.Results: 224 out of 1091 websites advertised stem cell clinics. 68 eligible sites covering 21 countries were evaluated. The top five clinical indications for stem cell therapy were multiple sclerosis, anti-ageing, Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injury. Adult, autologous stem cells were the most commonly utilised stem cell, and these were frequently sourced from bone marrow and adipose tissue and administered intravenously. Thirty-four per cent of sites mentioned the number of patients treated while one quarter of clinics provided outcome data. Twenty-nine per cent of clinics had an internationally recognised accreditation. Fifteen per cent of clinics stated that their therapies posed no risk. Eighty-eight per cent of clinics claimed treatment effectiveness, with 16% describing their curative potential. Over 40% of sites did not specify the number or duration of treatments. Fifty-three per cent of clinics requested access to patients' medical records, and 12% recommended patients discuss the proposed therapy with their doctor. No clinic recommended that travellers consult a travel medicine specialist or receive vaccinations prior to their intended travel. One quarter of sites discussed contraindications to treatment, with 41% of sites detailing follow up patient care.Conclusions: There is potential for stem cell tourists to receive misleading or deficient information from online stem cell clinics. Both the stem cell tourist and travel medicine practitioner should be educated on the potential risks associated with stem cell clinical services advertised online. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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