Wimbledon Clinics

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PRP Therapy Improves Joint Pain, Function In Early Knee Osteoarthritis

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Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), an emerging therapy that promises to speed the healing of tendon injuries and surgical wounds, may also help patients with early knee osteoarthritis (OA), according to new research.

A study conducted at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and published online in Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine showed that patients with knee OA had significant improvement in pain and function after a single PRP injection.

The results also suggest that, if administered in the early stages of the disease, the PRP therapy not only relieves the symptoms but also delays the progression of OA, though it was not evident from this study if that delay will continue over the years, said the study´s lead author Dr Brian Halpern.

PRP is blood plasma enriched with platelets, which are derived from a patient´s own blood and injected into problem areas to promote the healing process.

In the study, 22 patients, all with diagnosed knee OA and arthritis-related pain for an average of 14 months, were injected with 6 millilitres of PRP and followed for one year. The study participants were clinically evaluated at baseline and periodically over the course of the year for knee pain, function, stiffness and the ability to perform daily tasks such as climbing stairs.

The patients also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess joint cartilage at baseline and at one year, with MRI, which has not been used in previous PRP studies, providing an objective view of changes in the joint.

Of the participants, 17 completed the study and there was full MRI data for 15. For most patients the clinical outcomes were encouraging, with pain, on the visual analogue scale (VAS) pain scale, reduced by 56.2% at six months and almost 60% at 12 months. Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC) scores showed similar reductions in stiffness and pain and activities of daily living (ADL) scores showed significant improvements: 46.8% at six months and 55.7% at one year.

Furthermore, the majority of patients showed no further cartilage loss a year after the PRP injection, whereas previous studies have found that patients with knee OA tend to lose 5% of cartilage a year.

However, the study author stressed that the positive outcomes were seen only in people with early OA and that additional research is needed to show the biological plausibility of this therapy. Other experts agree, adding that a consensus is needed on the best preparation of PRP, as well as on the volume and number of injections.