Background: Specific growth factors have been proposed as therapeutic proteins for cartilage repair.
Hypothesis: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) provides symptomatic relief in early osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.
Methods: A total of 78 patients (156 knees) with bilateral OA were divided randomly into 3 groups. Group A (52 knees) received a single injection of PRP, group B (50 knees) received 2 injections of PRP 3 weeks apart, and group C (46 knees) received a single injection of normal saline. White blood cell (WBC)-filtered PRP with a platelet count 3 times that of baseline (PRP type 4B) was administered in all. All the groups were homogeneous and comparable in baseline characteristics. Clinical outcome was evaluated using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC) questionnaire before treatment and at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after treatment. They were also evaluated for pain by a visual analog scale, and overall satisfaction with the procedure and complications were noted.
Results: Statistically significant improvement in all WOMAC parameters was noted in groups A and B within 2 to 3 weeks and lasting until the final follow-up at 6 months, with slight worsening at the 6-month follow-up. The mean WOMAC scores (pain, stiffness, physical function, and total score) for group A at baseline were 10.18, 3.12, 36.56, and 49.86, respectively, and at final follow-up were 5.00, 2.10, 20.08, and 27.18, respectively, showing significant improvement. Similar improvement was noted in group B (mean WOMAC scores at baseline: 10.62, 3.50, 39.10, and 53.20, respectively; mean WOMAC scores at final follow-up: 6.18, 1.88, 22.40, and 30.48, respectively). In group C, the mean WOMAC scores deteriorated from baseline (9.04, 2.70, 33.80, and 45.54, respectively) to final follow-up (10.87, 2.76, 39.46, and 53.09, respectively). The 3 groups were compared with each other, and no improvement was noted in group C as compared with groups A and B (P < .001). There was no difference between groups A and B, and there was no influence of age, sex, weight, or body mass index on the outcome. Knees with Ahlback grade 1 fared better than those with grade 2. Mild complications such as nausea and dizziness, which were of short duration, were observed in 6 patients (22.2%) in group A and 11 patients (44%) in group B.
Conclusion: A single dose of WBC-filtered PRP in concentrations of 10 times the normal amount is as effective as 2 injections to alleviate symptoms in early knee OA. The results, however, deteriorate after 6 months. Both groups treated with PRP had better results than did the group injected with saline only.