Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common condition as a person ages, especially in individuals with previous knee injuries. Affecting over 1.5 million Australians, the disease ranges in severity from early disease causing only occasional pain and soreness, to severe disease, with persistent joint pain and stiffness – which can have a significant effect on a patient’s quality of life and physical activities.
Treatment of knee osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms is complex and current recommendations for mild to moderate OA include weight reduction, lifestyle changes, medications, physiotherapy, bracing and muscle strengthening programs.
For patients who continue to have pain despite these early treatment options, intra-articular Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections may be recommended to relieve pain and/or to delay knee replacement surgery.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is a relatively new treatment for knee OA symptoms that has been proven to reduce pain and improve function of osteoarthritic joints. Significant research in the use of PRP for mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis has indicated that PRP is superior to other knee injection options such as hyaluronic acid (eg: Synvisc) and corticosteroids. PRP is usually recommended to help manage OA symptoms, and slow progression to more advanced OA.
Published studies have demonstrated 85% or more of patients who receive knee joint PRP gained a 50-80% reduction in their symptoms for 6-12 months. Some patients notice improvements for up to 18 months. Annual repetition of the PRP treatment can prolong this benefit. The PRP injection is not a “quick fix” and it usually takes up to 6 weeks for noticeable improvement.
PRP is not appropriate for all painful joints, and patient suitability for PRP needs to be assessed by the treating doctor. Patients with symptomatic early to moderate OA will usually require two injections, spaced four weeks apart. More advanced OA will usually need three injections. It is important that patients understand that PR is not a 100% guaranteed solution to resolve all osteoarthritis symptoms.
PRP achieves best outcomes when used in combination with weight loss, structured exercise and healthy lifestyle.