Sports medicine clinicians who learn how to utilize platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy at the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) generally accept the basic premise that PRP injections help injured athletes by encouraging their bodies to heal. The results of a recently released study adds a bit of intrigue to that thinking.
The Ohio State University (Columbus) study was conducted in order to determine the efficacy of intraoperative PRP therapy for meniscus tears. Results were presented at a recent meeting of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. Those results were rather curious. It turns out that the effectiveness of PRP therapy may be influenced by the surgical procedure being performed.
Preventing Recurring Injury
Researchers looking into the regenerative properties of PRP injections recruited 550 injured patients and split them into two groups. The control group underwent standard meniscus repair surgery with no additional PRP. The test group received intraoperative PRP injections during their surgeries. All the subjects were then followed for three years.
Data shows that control group patients reported a meniscus failure rate of 17%. In other words, 17% suffered a second meniscus injury within the three-year follow-up. The failure rate among patients in the test group was reported at 14.7%. All of that lines up with what proponents of regenerative medicine would expect.
The curiosity comes into play when you consider that some patients also underwent a second surgery for ACL repair. Members of the test group who only underwent meniscus repair surgery did fare better with intraoperative PRP injections. Those who also underwent ACL repair surgery seemed to derive no benefit from the PRP injections.
PRP’s Self-Healing Mechanisms
Regenerative medicine is still new enough that medical science doesn’t fully understand how it all works. But as doctors from the ARMI explained, it is believed that the many growth factors found in blood platelets are the key factor in promoting healing. Science already knows that these growth factors play a significant role in repairing and rebuilding tissue.
Our general understanding is that platelets and their associated growth factors stimulate the body to deal with the injury at hand. And by the way, this understanding is not the result of random guesswork. It is the result of PRP’s known ability to promote wound healing. Surgeons have been utilizing postoperative PRP therapy for this very purpose for decades.
We know the growth factors found in PRP do certain things. We do not yet fully know why. As such, it is not clear why intraoperative PRP injections would improve failure rates among meniscus injury patients, but only if those patients do not also have a coincidental ACL injury. It is not clear why the additional ACL surgery makes a difference.
Good News Nonetheless
It might be frustrating to some in the regenerative medicine community to read the results of the meniscus study. The data from the study is still good news, nonetheless. It does show that PRP injections can reduce failure rates among meniscus surgery patients. That indicates that PRP therapy does just what regenerative medicine proponents have claimed all along.
The study results also provide further motivation to continue looking into exactly how PRP therapy works. Now that we know it can reduce meniscus repair failure rates, the next task is to better understand why. Perhaps then we can understand the issue with ACL patients.
All of this points to now being a great time to be involved in medical research. Regenerative medicine procedures like PRP and stem cell injections promise to change the way we treat all sorts of injuries and diseases.