Researchers reject the use of plasma injections for knee joint osteoarthritis

In what will be disappointing news for many, a large-scale clinical trial has found platelet-rich plasma injections for those with osteoarthritis knee pain are no better than a placebo.

This type of injection has become an increasingly popular form of treatment for knee joint arthritis, despite its prohibitive cost at around $2,000 per injection.

Plasma from a patient’s own blood is injected directly into the joint in the hope it will reduce pain and improve joint cartilage.

But a trial conducted by researchers from the universities of Sydney and Melbourne and Monash University has found that while participants who had the plasma injections did have a significant improvement in their knee pain over 12 months, the level of improvement was the same as for those in the placebo group.

There were also no differences in the MRI scans across both groups.

Kolling Institute and University of Sydney researcher Professor David Hunter concedes the findings will disappoint some people who had hoped these injections would offer long-term relief.

“With more than two million Australians affected by knee joint arthritis, there is clearly a need for new therapies to reduce symptoms and improve the structure of the knee,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the particular treatment trialled in this study, whilst widely used and typically expensive, appears to be ineffective.

“Our research however has added to our understanding of this type of treatment and will ensure the latest recommendations are backed by high-quality evidence.

“Our current advice encourages people with knee osteoarthritis to adopt a consistent exercise program and lose weight if they are above a healthy weight range.

“We know that by reducing your body weight by just 10 per cent, you can reduce your knee pain by a remarkable 50 per cent.”

The research paper has been published in one of the world’s leading medical journals, the Journal of the American Medical Association.