Traditional methods of managing knee pain caused by osteoarthritis (OA) include anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, cortisone injections, and surgery. In the past decade, researchers have examined whether injections of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) can be used to manage OA of the knee.
Growth factors are found in platelets in your blood. PRP operates under the theory that injecting growth factors from the blood into an injured area will cause new tissues to form. That is supposed to reduce inflammation in the tissue. When growth factors interact with local cells, they signal them to initiate cell division and migration. This promotes tissue formation.
A recent meta-analysis Trusted Source from 2017 reviewed 14 randomized controlled trials with a total of 1,423 participants. It found that PRP appears to be effective in managing pain associated with knee OA. Researchers noted that, compared with placeboes, PRP injections significantly reduced pain scores at 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups. And compared with controls, PRP significantly improved physical function at these follow-ups. The study did not see a significant improvement in postinjection adverse events.
While those results are promising, 10 of the 14 studies in the meta-analysis were at high risk of bias and 4 were at moderate risk of bias. More studies are needed to determine the efficacy of using RPR to manage pain from OA of the knee.
Who is a good candidate for this treatment?
You may be a good candidate for PRP if your symptoms of OA of the knee are not manageable through conventional methods such as anti-inflammatories, cortisone injections, and physical therapy.
PRP injections are considered experimental, however. That means that they may not be covered by insurance. It also means that there is limited research around the safety and effectiveness of this treatment. Work closely with your doctor before starting any experimental treatments.
What happens during the procedure?
As part of the procedure, your doctor will draw blood from your arm. Then, they’ll put the blood sample into a centrifuge for 15 minutes. The centrifuge will separate your blood into:
- red blood cells
- white blood cells
Your doctor will use that sample to extract PRP. They will numb your knee and inject the RPR into the area. You’ll then rest about 15 minutes before being discharged.
The procedure will take about one hour.
What happens after the procedure?
After the procedure, ice your knee every 2 to 3 hours for 20 minutes each time. Continue this for three days. You may also need to take pain medication if you have significant pain. You’ll want to limit your physical activity and avoid activities that put weight on your knee. Your doctor may recommend using crutches for a few days to keep weight off of your knee.
Follow up with your physician 6 to 8 weeks after the procedure to assess the effectiveness. You can discuss possible next steps, as well.