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Platelet-rich plasma injection is a relatively new treatment for arthritis pain and regeneration of damaged joints. PRP appears to be efficient in some patients but further studies needed to establish its effectiveness.

As we live longer, arthritis is becoming an increasingly common problem. The condition is associated with the inflammation of joints, and comes in multiple forms, ranging from non-progressive to chronic. Common symptoms of arthritis include painful and stiff joints which lead to dysfunction. Some forms are so severe that they might affect other organs and can be fatal. Causes of arthritis are as multiple as its manifestations and can include genetic factors, infection, trauma or sprain, environmental factors and aging-related changes in the body.

Normally, synovial fluid that surrounds cartilage-lined bones prevents the wear and tear of joints; this arrangement is held by tendons and muscles. Any disorder in this arrangement will affect the normal functioning of joints and can lead to arthritis.

Despite substantial body of research into arthritis, the cure for the disease remains elusive, and effective management is problematic. Arthritis is often associated with constant pain and severe limitations of mobility. It is no wonder that sufferers are very keen on using any method that can help at least a bit. Various physiotherapies, spa procedures, herbal and alternative medicines are some of the methods people try to use to alleviate the pain and suffering. Many of these methods have questionable scientific foundation and induce only short-lived temporary reliefs, if any.

However, a number of more scientifically sound methods have emerged in recent years. One of such promising approaches is the injections of platelet-rich plasma.

Why Platelets For Treating Arthritis?

The components of blood called platelets (or thrombocytes) play major role in clotting and healing process of the body by recruiting healing machinery at the site of injury in the body. Platelets are rich in growth factors and cytokines. They adhere to the site of injury and administer the release of these growth factors which aid tissue regeneration. Moreover, platelets also contain protein vitronectin which helps bone tissue formation and repair. Studies of the platelets' role in the healing process have led to the concept that if plasma-rich in platelets are injected into the joints (intra-atricular injection), it might somehow aid arthritis damage repair and hence relieve pain.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Preparation And Injection

Platelet-rich plasma was first used in 1987 during surgeries. Normal platelet concentration in plasma is 200,000 platelets per microliter. PRP contains a platelet count four times above this baseline level.

Venous blood (30-60ml) is drawn from the patient under aseptic conditions from arm. Blood is then centrifuged at a certain speed, allowing to divide it into plasma fractions rich in platelets, plasma poor in platelets and red blood cells. The platelet-rich plasma section is saved,, while the others are discarded. It is then shaken for platelets to re-suspend. Around 3 to 6 milliliters of PRP can be obtained from the blood sample with this simple procedure, depending on the initial volume of blood.

The site of arthritis is identified by ultrasound, so that the injection can be localized to the exact site. PRP is injected to the arthritis-affected site of patient, along with the local anesthetics lidocaine and Marcaine. Calcium chloride can aid in platelet adherence to the site of injury, hence it can also be added. The patient may feel slight discomfort later on, and therefore the use of pain reliever medicines is recommended after injection.

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