Sunday, December 14, 2014

Does Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Work?

Great in theory, unproven in practice. It's been at least six years since Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRPT) was first proposed as a technique for speeding recovery from joint and connective tissue injuries, and we still don't know if it works!

In PRPT, a patient's own plasma is enriched in platelets by removal of blood cells and most of the water (see this blog Feb. 18, 2009). The remaining platelet-rich plasma is injected directly into the patient's injured joint or connective tissue. In theory, proteins and growth factors released by the platelets should speed the healing process. But do they?

The problem is that despite numerous clinical studies, the results are still inconsistent, according to an NPR article. I reported on two such studies back in 2010 (see "Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Revisited"). Part of the problem is that in most studies the number of patients is relatively small (fewer than a hundred patients, rather than a thousand or more) and the techniques used and types of injuries treated vary. And since it's not yet proven to work, insurance companies don't pay for the procedure, meaning that the patient pays the total cost of roughly $600 to $1,500.

We should have known by now whether the technique works. We're still waiting....

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