Although osteoarthritis is one of the most common chronic joint conditions, few nonsurgical options have shown long-term benefits. Impacting almost 27 million Americans, the disease causes pain, swelling, and mobility issues as the cartilage between joints wears down. Joint replacement surgery can provide relief once the disease has significantly progressed, but nonsurgical alternatives have only had short-term benefits. Now, a new study published in The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery suggests that Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections could combat pain and improve joint functioning in the knee.
In the past, nonsurgical treatments have included using anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroid and hyaluronic acid (HA) injections. While they ease discomfort, research hasn’t found that the conditions are improved over a longer length of time, necessitating total knee replacement surgery. PRP, however, might offer a new solution.
PRP is blood plasma infused with platelets and contains several different growth factors. It’s been used to help alleviate pain from damaged muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints by healing damaged cells and promote formation of cartilage repair tissue. Until now, no tests about its efficacy have been conclusive, partly due to small sample sizes. To make a more definitive claim, researchers from The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University conducted 10 randomized controlled trails with 1,069 patients.
562 patients received PRP injections to their knees, 429 received HA injections, and 78 received saline injections. Studies had three month, six month, and 12 month follow-ups. Although at six months, relevant studies showed no difference in pain or function scores, at one year, the researchers found that PRP was significantly more effective than HA at relieving pain and improving function.
Researchers were concerned that the proinflammatory substances PRP releases could be detrimental to tissues. However, no tissue damage was reported at either the six or 12 month follow-up and there were no differences in adverse effects between PRP and HA. More research will be needed before this can be confirmed.
Overall, these results show that PRP could be a viable nonsurgical option for patients with knee OA, helping regenerate tissue and stimulate HA production over a longer period of time.
Is knee pain impacting your quality of life? Dr. Stickney, a Kirkland orthopedic surgeon specializing in procedures including total knee replacement, can help you determine what surgical or non-surgical options are best for you. Contact his office today to learn more.