Are you struggling with knee osteoarthritis and seeking effective relief? I’m going to dive into the transformative world of platelet-rich plasma injections, a breakthrough treatment that could revolutionize your experience with pain and enhance your daily function. I’ll explain the science behind PRP, delve into the most recent and compelling clinical trial results, and discuss how this advanced therapy could be the key to restoring your quality of life.
Platelet rich plasma injections also known as PRP are a cutting edge treatment that utilizes the healing properties of your own cells. The procedure involves a simple blood draw and then separating the blood into various components using a centrifuge. We then take the layer that has all the platelets and growth factors and then inject that into an injured area. PRP treatments have been shown to be incredibly effective in treating a variety of conditions including tendons, muscles, and joints.
One of the best studied indications for PRP injections is knee osteoarthritis and the body of evidence supporting its use continues to grow. A recent study analyzed 35 randomized controlled trials with a total of over 3,100 participants with knee osteoarthritis. This comprehensive study evaluated the effectiveness of various treatments including corticosteroids, platelet rich plasma, hyaluronic acid, and placebo.
The results showed that PRP injections were the most successful treatments in improving function and reducing pain after 3, 6, and 12 months of follow up. Even better, there were no differences in treatment related side effects or adverse events in any group when compared to placebo.
So why are your platelets so effective at reducing pain and improving symptoms? Well, our platelets are responsible for tissue healing, tissue remodeling, tissue proliferation, and most importantly, in controlling pain and inflammation. And so what we’re doing with a PRP injection is using your own body’s capacity to control pain and to control inflammation, taking it out, concentrating it, and then injecting it under ultrasound guidance back into an area that’s been irritated or injured.
And it turns out that the cellular mechanisms activated by PRP injections are way more effective than any other medication we can inject into your knee for treatment. But it gets even better because PRP does more than just improve symptoms. One of the most compelling reasons to pursue PRP is that it may also slow down the progression of arthritis. This was demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial involving 610 patients which compared the effects of PRP injections to saline placebo injections in treating symptomatic knee osteoarthritis.
The study performed MRI scans at baseline and then again at 5 years post treatment. And the results showed that PRP injections led to an almost 50% reduction in the progression of arthritis when compared to the saline placebo. So how is this even possible? Previously, the only treatments that have been shown to slow the progression of arthritis were weight loss, diet, and exercise. That’s it. So how could PRP help slow down the progression of arthritis?
Well remember, osteoarthritis is a chronic progressive inflammatory disease that causes breakdown of cartilage. Low grade inflammation damages healthy cartilage which worsens arthritis. And what does PRP do? PRP introduces a huge number of platelets and growth factors that can change the inflammatory environment inside a joint with arthritis.
The researchers from the study analyzed the synovial fluid in the knees of patients who got PRP and those who got placebo. The placebo group had no changes to the level of inflammation in their knees. However, the PRP group had a significant decrease in inflammatory markers in their knees at 6 months post injection. This drop in inflammation helps to keep healthy cartilage intact and slows the progression of arthritis.
All of this compelling evidence from clinical trials is further reinforced by leading medical organizations. Both the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine have acknowledged the effectiveness of PRP. They’ve released summaries and consensus statements highlighting PRP’s significant benefits in reducing pain and enhancing joint function in knee osteoarthritis.
Now it’s worth quickly noting that PRP is not the same as stem cell therapy. Many people assume that stem cell therapies must be better and more effective than platelet rich plasma. But it turns out that a recent study found that the three most common stem cell therapies which include bone marrow aspirate concentrate, stromal vascular fraction, and umbilical derived stem cells were no better at reducing pain and improving function when compared to cortisone injections.
This is just not true of platelet rich plasma. Studies continue to show that PRP injections are incredibly beneficial for the treatment of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. So with everything I’ve presented so far, it’s clear that PRP can revolutionize how we approach arthritis.