Stroke survivor attitudes toward, and motivations for, considering experimental stem cell treatments

David J. Unsworth, Jane L. Mathias, Diana S. Dorstyn, Simon Koblar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: Interest in stem cell treatments is increasing among some patient groups, but it is unclear whether this holds true for stroke survivors. This study examined stroke survivor attitudes toward stem cell treatments and identified a number of variables that may increase the likelihood that patients will consider these treatments. Methods: Adult stroke survivors (N = 183) were recruited (stroke advocacy/support groups, outpatient register) for a cross-sectional study. Attitudes to stem cell treatments were surveyed, guided by the Theory of Planned Behavior. Demographic information was collected, and a number of self-report medical, cognitive and psychological measures completed. Results: Twenty-five percent (n = 46) of respondents indicated they were considering undergoing stem cell treatments, although most were unsure about the safety/effectiveness and accessibility/affordability. Stroke survivors with positive attitudes toward stem cell treatments, longer post-stroke intervals, poorer physical functioning, younger age, and greater perceived caregiver burden were more likely to be considered experimental treatments (odds ratios = 1.22, 1.08, 0.95, 0.96, 1.07; respectively). Conclusions: Stroke survivors may consider undergoing experimental stem cell treatments despite uncertainty regarding the risks/benefits. Clinicians should be mindful of the factors that may increase the likelihood of patients considering these treatments and intervene, where appropriate, to clarify any misconceptions regarding the medical/financial risks.IMPLICATION FOR REHABILITATION Stem cell treatments offer a new focus for reducing stroke-related disability, although their safety and effectiveness have yet to be established. Despite uncertainty regarding the medical risks and benefits associated with stem cell injections, stroke survivors may still consider undergoing treatment in private, unregulated clinics. A number of factors, including younger age, longer post-stroke interval, poorer physical functioning, and perceived caregiver burden may place stroke survivors at an increased risk of considering these treatments. Clinicians should endeavor to educate stroke survivors regarding the risks and benefits of these experimental treatments and clarify any misconceptions, in order to reduce the likelihood that they will consider these as-yet unproven treatments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDisability and rehabilitation
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Stroke
  • logistic models
  • medical tourism
  • stem cells
  • survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation

Cite this