Injections of platelet rich plasma (PRP) into injured parts of the body reduce pain and improve function more than surgical or steroid treatments, according to a new study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA).
PRP is a relatively new therapy and only a few small clinical trials have been conducted on its effectiveness. Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine analyzed those trials and found that patients with knee osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders had statistically significant improvements. In some trials, patients continued to show improvement one to two years after being treated.
PRP therapy is derived from the patient’s own blood. The procedure involves withdrawing blood from the patient and then spinning it to produce a high concentration of platelet cells. The plasma is then injected back into the patient at the injury site, speeding up the healing process.
“Osteopathic medicine teaches us that the human organism possesses an innate ability to heal itself,” said JAOA Editor in Chief, Robert Orenstein, DO, an infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic Arizona.
“By inciting and augmenting inflammation, PRP appears to enhance tissue repair resulting in progressive functional improvements. Large, well-controlled studies are needed to assess the full potential of PRP and similar biological products in providing pain and symptom relief to patients with musculoskeletal injury.”
One recent study found that PRP therapy relieved pain and improved function in up to 73 percent of patients with knee osteoarthritis. Researchers said PRP therapy also appeared to delay the progression of osteoarthritis.
A growing number of professional athletes, such as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Peyton Manning, have used PRP therapy to treat joint pain and cartilage tears. Some travel to Europe for a more refined version of PRP therapy known as Regenokine treatment. In that procedure, the blood is heated before it is spun to increase the concentration of anti-inflammatory and pain inhibiting proteins.
PRP therapy was first widely publicized in 2008 when Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward competed in the Super Bowl despite sustaining a torn collateral ligament two weeks before the big game. Ward reportedly received a series of PRP injections to accelerate the healing process.
Professional athletes may benefit from PRP therapy, but the procedure costs several thousand dollars, is not covered by most insurance plans and is out of reach of most patients. There is also a lack of standardization of PRP preparations and injection techniques.
“Although PRP therapy is available throughout the United States and other countries, given questionable insurance reimbursements, lack of standardization of preparation and procedural protocols, and the high cost of preparing PRP samples, it is important that the efficacy and safety of PRP treatments be further evaluated,” wrote lead author Jamil Bashir, MD, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.