Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition that affects millions of patients worldwide. In fact, it is estimated that half of the population will suffer from it at some point in their lives. Amongst other treatment options, injections have been a mainstay for the treatment of OA in the knee. The traditional type of injection is a corticosteroid, or "cortisone", which is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication delivered directly into the knee. However, recent advances have led to the development of other injectables for the treatment of knee OA.
Two of the more recently developed options include viscosupplementation and platelet rich plasma (PRP). Viscosupplementation is the injection of a hyaluronic acid gel into the knee, which acts as a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory, and joint lubricant. PRP is created by drawing the patient's own blood, then spinning it down to isolate the platelets in plasma, which contain a multitude of growth factors that are thought to stimulate healing.
A new study from the American Journal of Sports Medicine compared these two types of injection for the treatment of knee OA, and found no significant difference between the two. Drs Giuseppe Filardo, Elizaveta Kon, and their team of researchers from the Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute in Italy randomized nearly 200 patients to receive either PRP or viscosupplementation injections and followed their results for one year. There was no significant difference in outcomes at any point during the study, and both groups had significant improvement in their knee pain and function.
The results of this study demonstrate that both PRP and viscosupplementation are effective in the treatment of pain related to knee OA, but one does not appear to be better than the other. Currently, viscosupplementation is FDA-approved for use in knee OA, while PRP is not and, as a result, most health insurance providers will cover the costs of viscosupplementation and not PRP, which may be an important factor in patients' decisions between the two.