Researchers are always looking for alternatives to cure or treat the symptoms of knee arthritis without resorting to a full knee replacement. Animal studies are on-going to see if embryonic stem cells can regenerate or grow cartilage to replace the worn out cells in an arthritic knee. Another avenue being looked at is Platelet-Rich Plasma (or PRP). Plasma is the golden liquid left over that floats to the top after venous blood is spun down in a high speed centrifuge machine.
The heavy red blood cells precipitate to the bottom of the tube. In the “old days”, Plasma was used as a blood replacement for trauma or military critical care injuries because it could be frozen and lasted longer than “whole blood”, which has a shorter “shelf life”. many lives were saved by IV infusion of plasma. So it is somewhat ironic that PRP has resurfaced as an exciting new therapy for arthritic knees. The results are not fabulous, but many patients did get relief in a study published in 2012 by The hospital for Special Surgery ( see report below).
The plasma can be prepared from the patients own blood in the doctors office, which is spun down, and the plasma is sterily injected into the patients knee. Simple! The procedure is still considered experimental by insurance carriers, so if you want it done, be prepared to pay for it outside of your insurance coverage!