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Platelet-rich plasma therapy fails first test

Posted by medconsumers on January 22, 2010

Anyone with a torn tendon, sprained ligament, or strained muscle has probably heard of platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP. Over the last two years, several high-profile professional athletes like Tiger Woods have gone public with their successful healing experiences with PRP. The treatment, which involves injecting people with platelets from their own blood, has taken off largely through word-of-mouth and without hard evidence that it actually works. Many are demanding the new treatment and willing to pay $1,000 or more out of pocket. Enthusiasm for PRP is entirely understandable as there is currently no treatment proven to be effective for these common orthopedic injuries.

For the first step in the PRP process, a small amount of blood is taken from the patient and put in a centrifuge that separates the platelet-rich plasma from the other components. The patient is then injected with his or her own platelets at the injury site. The idea behind PRP is that the platelets hasten tissue repair. In no time, PRP has escalated to a treatment for arthritis and bone fractures. Thousands of doctors and about 500 hospitals are offering PRP, according to the companies that sell centrifuge equipment.

Results of the first rigorous study to explore PRP’s efficacy were published recently. It concluded that PRP was no more effective than saltwater injections for injured Achilles’ tendons, the fibrous tissue that connects the calf to the heel bone. The 54 participants had been randomly assigned to be given either PRP or saline injections and evaluated for pain and function thereafter at 6, 12, and 24 weeks. No greater improvement in pain or activity was shown in the people given PRP. Other studies are in the works to see whether PRP can repair other types of injuries.

The study was funded by a company that makes PRP equipment. “Biomet Biologics, LLC had no role in the design and conduct of the study; in the collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation,” according to the fine print at the end of the new study.

For more information
This study was conducted by a Netherlands-based research team led by Robert J. Vos, MD, Erasmus University Medical Center, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. To read the abstract of this study, click here.

Added September 5, 2011: Read about newer PRP studies in this New York Times article entitled, “As Sports Medicine Surges, Hope and Hype Outpace Proven Treatments.”

Maryann Napoli, Center for Medical Consumers(c)

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One Response to “Platelet-rich plasma therapy fails first test”

  1. James Lerner, L.Ac., R.N. said

    As a practicing acupuncturist who treated players of a local semi-pro soccer team for a number of years, I take issue that there is no treatment for strained muscles. Acupuncture can be quite effective for this condition. Tendon tears and ligament strains are quite different, and much slower to heal.

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