Knee pain due to arthritis is a very common finding in orthopedic clinics. Many patients get relief with rest or by taking anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes a steroid injection can help in relieving pain, but these medications are not safe for everyone and have potential side effects. If these conservative treatments do not work and your pain still persists, then PRP therapy (platelet rich plasma therapy) may be an effective treatment option for you.
From a historical perspective, PRP was widely used in dentistry with great success. However, its use today has greatly increased in sports medicine and various orthopedic conditions. Some studies have proved its efficacy in relieving pain associated with an arthritic knee. There are currently many studies underway involving a large number of patients who have knee arthritis, but doctors have already started treating patients with PRP therapy to relieve pain from knee arthritis.
PRP has growth factors in the form of proteins that play a role in the natural process of healing, therefore injecting concentrated growth factors to the site of injury can indeed cause new cell growth and promote healing.
Before visiting the doctor’s clinic on the day of the procedure, you must drink plenty of water. This method uses the patient’s own blood, approximately 20cc, which is collected by a nurse or perfusionist. The blood is then placed in a disposable and put in a machine called centrifuge and spun for approximately fifteen minutes.
Blood contains plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. After spinning, the centrifuge has separated the components of your blood. The platelet rich plasma that contains concentrated growth factors is then extracted from the container in the centrifuge. The physician will now have around 3-4ml’s of PRP to be injected into the injury site.
This process takes a few minutes, but it actually increases the concentration of platelets by up to 5 times compared to your normal blood. Before injecting, the area of injury may need to be locally anesthesized so that the PRP injection is only slightly uncomfortable.
To ensure the accuracy of the placement of the platelet rich plasma, a diagnostic ultrasound is used. A 25 gauge needle is then attached to a syringe containing the PRP and is then guided by ultrasound into the areas of injury. After the procedure, a simple Band-Aid is applied. Because there is no surgical incision involved in this treatment, you experience little or no pain immediately after the procedure. Since a local anesthetic is given, the area will be numb for two to four hours after the procedure.
After the anesthetic effect is over, you may resume normal activities, but you if normal activity is causing pain, you may have to rest. You may experience some pain 3-5 days after injection. This mild pain is normal because the PRP has jumpstarted the normal healing process. You will most likely notice an inflammatory response around this time frame.
Anti inflammatory medications are not to be taken for four to six weeks after the procedure since the objective of the treatment is to set off an inflammatory response to aid in healing. If pain persists, the area can be iced three to four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes.
PRP treatment for knee arthritis has many advantages. It is an outpatient procedure, no hospitalization is required therefore you do not need to take time off work. Next, it does not require general anesthesia. In this treatment, you not only get temporary relief, but you also get healing of the condition since the tissue is regenerated. If compared to the cost of the surgery, it is much less. Always talk with your physician to see if PRP therapy is right for you.
This treatment may not work for someone who is older with total osteoarthritis. But it has the potential to do wonders for patients who have early arthritis, who have good knee alignment, or who have small arthritic areas.
Although it is still in nascent stage, many patients across the country have been treated with PRP and they have shown significant improvements in pain and ability to carry out most movements of their everyday lives. Most insurance companies will not reimburse for this treatment, as it is still considered experimental by the FDA.
It is an exceptionally safe procedure and complications are rare. Since it uses your own blood, there is no risk of a transmissible infection or allergic reaction. Pain is actually resolved through healing.
Many orthopedics clinics have practiced this therapy with no complications.