Knee osteoarthritis is a progressive degenerative condition. Up until recently, all treatments have been directed at ameliorating its symptoms, with no hope of stopping disease progression. However, recent trials using Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) to treat the disease, rather than just the symptoms, have had encouraging results.
PRP is concentrated plasma from your own blood that has been separated to include platelets, small blood cells that are loaded with growth factors responsible for healing cells and that help form clots so your body can repair any damage. Many of these growth factors have been shown to promote cartilage regeneration. Although PRP has been used since 1987 to help with cell regeneration, using it to stimulate cartilage renewal is fairly new. The treatment entails drawing blood and injecting the PRP into the knee.
Two recent scientific papers reported decreased pain and improved function after PRP injections. In 2011, the Journal of Arthroscopy reported on the comparative results of injecting knees with PRP versus viscosupplementation with hyaluronic acid (HA), a procedure that injects a lubricating fluid into the joint. At the six-month follow-up, the PRP group had less pain. A second study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2016 reported on the comparative results of injecting PRP versus saline, which was used as a control. The results of this study showed dramatic improvement at six months in both pain and function for the PRP group. There is much more to learn about PRP injections, and a lot of research is ongoing in this field.
This data is very encouraging. PRP is readily available, easily processed, safe, and one of the only proven regenerative treatments for early arthritis of the knee.