Home » Managing pain » New Osteoarthritis therapy harnesses the power of human blood

Oliver Templeton-Ward

Orthopaedic Surgeon, Arthrex

Plasma therapy has the potential to reduce painful osteoarthritis and delay knee replacement surgery.

Painful knee problems are often the reason why older adults give up exercise or their favourite daily activities – and in the process often bring on more serious physical and mental health conditions. Yet, technology is now available to keep people moving and in less pain for longer.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful joint condition commonly affecting the over-50s that causes swelling, tenderness, grating or crackling sounds when moving, most commonly in the fingers, thumbs, hips, knees, neck and lower back. At its most serious, OA will be treated by joint replacement surgery, from which full recovery can take several years.

New emerging treatment options

However, a new treatment is gradually gaining momentum in the UK that offers people with OA the hope of more pain-free years. In platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, the patient’s own blood is manipulated to create a platelet-rich plasma “soup”, which is then injected into the injury site. Within the body, growth factors that naturally occur in these platelets work with stem cells to repair damaged tissue.

According to specialist knee surgeon Oliver Templeton-Ward, most people see significant improvements in pain and mobility after treatment. “With so few downsides, the vast majority of people are really pleased to have it done,” he says.

At its most serious, OA will be treated by joint replacement surgery, from which full recovery can take several years.

With a strong heritage of successful use in the USA, PRP is slowly finding its place within forward-thinking UK healthcare commissioners. In an ideal scenario, PRP is delivered in tandem with physiotherapy, providing a “first-stop” treatment option for people with arthritis that supports them towards improved joint health. Templeton-Ward says: “I would like to see primary care groups think of arthritis treatment as a journey along a pathway – rather than all or nothing.”

However, wider use of PRP remains handicapped by outdated experience of early-stage technology or lack of knowledge of its benefits. “There is a lot of good evidence out there for the use of PRP in mild to moderate arthritis. It is time to allay fears that this is hocus pocus,” he says.

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