Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is defined as a volume of plasma with a platelet concentration higher than the average in peripheral blood. Many basic, preclinical and even clinical case studies and trials report PRP's ability to improve musculoskeletal conditions including osteoarthritis, but paradoxically, just as many conclude it has no effect. The purpose of this narrative review is to discuss the available relevant evidence that supports the clinical use of PRP in osteoarthritis, highlighting those variables we perceive as critical. Here, recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses were used to identify the latest randomized controlled trials (RCTs) testing a PRP product as an intra-articular treatment for knee osteoarthritis, compared with an intra-articular control (mostly hyaluronic acid). Conclusions in the identified RCTs are examined and compared. In total, five recent meta-analyses and systematic reviews were found meeting the above criteria. A total of 19 individual trials were identified in the five reviews but only 9 were level of evidence I RCTs, and many had moderate or high risks of bias. At present, results from these RCTs seem to favor PRP use over other intra-articular treatments to improve pain scales in the short and medium term (6-12 months), but the overall level of evidence is low. As a result, clinical effectiveness of PRP for knee osteoarthritis treatment is still under debate. This is, prominently, the result of a lack of standardization of PRP products, scarceness of high quality RCTs not showing high risks of bias, and poor patient stratification for inclusion in the RCTs.
Keywords: allogenic products; anti-inflammatory intra-articular therapies; clinical evidence; clinical trials; knee osteoarthritis; patient stratification; platelet-rich plasma.