Marc Darrow MD, JD. Thank you for reading my article. You can ask me your questions about  this article using the contact form below. 

We will soon be publishing our research paper, Treatment of Chronic Hip Pain with Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections. In this research we will document patient response to Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy treatments at our office.

We have long used bone marrow derived stem cells and Platelet Rich Plasma injections as effective and reliable treatments for the patient with hip osteoarthritis. Most recently we have added umbilical cord blood stem cells to our healing arsenal.

When a patient comes into our office, the realistic expectation of effectiveness of treatment is confirmed by a physical examination and a patient history. Following the consultation we sit down with the patient and present our recommendations for their hip pain treatments. How do we decide which treatment will be best? Many factors. For instance a patient who wants to climb a mountain in a few months will need a different program from someone who simply wants to walk up a flight of stairs without loss of stability and pain.Someone who needs to get back to work or not lose time from a physically demanding job will need a different program than a retired person with limited activity. In this article we will concentrate on when the choice is Platelet  Rich Plasma Therapy injections as a primary treatment of hip osteoarthritis.

Platelet-Rich Plasma therapy is part of a group of treatments that come under the term “regenerative medicine.” Regenerative medicine is the science that studies the regeneration of biological tissues obtained through the use of the patient’s own cells. In regards to the growth factors in platelet-rich plasma (PRP) obtained from the patient’s blood, concentrating the platelets represents a safe, economical, easy to prepare, and easy to inject source of growth factors, such as in patients with hip osteoarthritis.

Research on PRP for Hip Osteoarthritis

Before we begin our look at the research that supports the use of PRP for hip osteoarthritis treatments, I want to explain the variations someone researching or getting this treatment may experience. In our opinion, regenerative medicine results are best seen when multiple PRP injections are given. In some research and in many doctor’s offices PRP is treated somewhat like a cortisone injection where one quick injection is considered the treatment. Your hip osteoarthritis did not occur overnight, it is the result of a slow degenerative process. It usually takes time and numerous treatments / injections to rebuild that hip.

This is a new study published in the Journal of pain research.(1) It hits upon some good points that describe how PRP works and when PRP may not work.

  • Variability in treatment can lead to failure: “Despite great variability in pain outcomes, the application of autologous platelet-rich plasma (PRP) has become increasingly popular in attempts to reduce chronic pain. The variability in PRP efficacy raises the question of whether PRP actually has an analgesic capacity, and if so, can that capacity be made consistent and maximized. The best explanation for the variability in PRP analgesic efficacy is the failure during PRP preparation and application to take into account variables that can increase or eliminate its analgesic capabilities. This suggests that if the variables are reduced and controlled, a PRP preparation and application protocol can be developed leading to PRP inducing reliable, complete, and long-term pain relief.”

To summarize that, you need to see a doctor or clinician that has developed effective protocols for the PRP treatment you are seeking. We have been doing regenerative medicine for over 20 years, we are pretty confident in how we treat patients with PRP.

In 2013, doctors at the Department of Special Surgical Science, University of Florence published research (2) that has been well cited in the medical community, and used as the basis to support the recommendation of PRP to treat degenerative joint disease. Here is what the study said:

“. . . the growth factors in the PRP, or the platelet-rich plasma, obtained from a withdrawal of autologous (from the same patient) blood, concentrating the platelets, represents a safe, economical, easy to prepare and easy to apply source of growth factors.

Numerous growth factors are in fact within the platelets and in particular a large number of them have a specific activity on neo-proliferation (new creation of tissue), on cartilage regeneration and in particular also an antiapoptotic effect on chondroblasts (the prevention of cartilage cells from dying).”

  • The research team also pointed out that the success of the PRP treatment was dependent on the severity of osteoarthritis.
  • Further that three PRP treatments could significantly decreased the pain and increased range of motion and joint function in the hip.

In another paper that was cited by 145 other medical studies, doctors in Spain writing in the Oxford University journal Rheumatology (3) assessed the safety and symptomatic changes in 40 patients receiving platelet-rich plasma (PRP) to osteoarthritis of the hip.

In the research, each joint received three hip injections PRP, which were administered once a week.

  • The treatment goal was meaningful pain relief, which was described as a reduction in pain intensity of at least 30% at 6-months post-treatment.
  • Secondary goals included changes in the level of disability of at least 30% and the percentage of positive responders, i.e. the number of patients that achieved a >30% reduction in pain and disability.
  • Results. Statistically significant reductions for pain and improved function were reported at 7 weeks and 6 months.
  • Twenty-three (57.5%) patients reported a clinically relevant reduction of pain (45%), Sixteen (40%) of these patients were classified as excellent responders who showed an early pain reduction at 6-7 weeks, which was sustained at 6 months, and a parallel reduction of disability.

How does PRP help hip osteoarthritis? By repairing hip cartilage

A December 2018 paper from the Steadman Philippon Research Institute published in the journal Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine (4) made these observations of the molecular and cellular repair PRP is capable of.

  • PRP modulates the inflammatory and catabolic environment through a locally applied concentrate of platelets, leukocytes, and growth factors.
    • What this suggests is that PRP acts as an anti-inflammatory, it turns a toxic joint, one that breaks down cartilage (catabolic – meaning eroding or breaking down) into a healing joint environment by bringing in healing cells and growth factors into the damaged joint that repairs the lesions and cracks in the cartilage. It also inspires the building of new cartilage.

PRP makes stem cells work and acts as an anti-inflammatory

A 2016 study in the journal Tissue engineering. Part B, Reviews, (5) gives a fascinating account of the healing mechanisms of PRP.

  • PRP modulates the repair and regeneration of damaged articular cartilage in the joints and delays the degeneration of cartilage by stimulation of mesenchymal stem cell migration, proliferation, and differentiation into articular chondrocytes.
  • In addition to the symptomatic relief, PRP is a biological response modifier of inflammatory nuclear factor-κB signaling pathway and PRP reduces the pain by decreasing inflammation and angiogenesis of the synovial membrane where pain receptors are localized.
  • PRP has the therapeutic potential not only to promote tissue regeneration, but also to contribute to articular cartilage lubrication by decreasing the friction coefficient and minimizing wear.
  • Although further refinements and improvements are needed in standardized PRP preparations, PRP may modulate regeneration of articular cartilage and retards the progression of osteoarthritis by stimulating cell migration, proliferation, differentiation of progenitor/stem cells, joint homeostasis, and joint lubrication.

Do you combine hyaluronic acid with PRP?

This is the answer to a question usually posed by someone who has visited another office where the person was offered a combined hyaluronic acid / PRP injection. Do we offer this? Not for musculoskeletal disorders. While the combination of Hyaluronic based fillers (because of their ability to retain moisture in damaged skin) and PRP has been shown effective in cosmetic applications, we have not seen the benefit of applying both in a joint affected by degenerative disease.

Do you offer hyaluronic acid at all? No

If a patient came into our office with a recommendation from another doctor that they seek a combined PRP / Hyaluronic acid treatment, we would discuss with them about the possibilities of stem cells.

  • PRP, as mentioned above contains growth factors which rebuild cartilage. PRP also contains anti-inflammatory factors.
  • Hyaluronic acid is a key component of the synovial fluid that encapsulates joints and provides protective lubrication as well as shock absorbing characteristics that protect the joint.
  • Stem cells provides the healing and growth factors found in PRP, in addition the stem cell treatments increase hyaluronic acid levels in arthritic joints. See my article Stem cell treatments increase hyaluronic acid levels in arthritic knees.

Dr. Darrow explains PRP for hip osteoarthritis in the video below

Ask Dr. Darrow about your hip pain


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1 Kuffler DP. Variables affecting the potential efficacy of PRP in providing chronic pain relief. J Pain Res. 2018;12:109-116. Published 2018 Dec 21. doi:10.2147/JPR.S190065
2
Civinini R, Nistri L, Martini C, Redl B, Ristori G, Innocenti M. Growth factors in the treatment of early osteoarthritis. Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2013 Jan;10(1):26-9. doi: 10.11138/ccmbm/2013.10.1.026.
3. Sánchez M, Guadilla J, Fiz N, Andia I. Ultrasound-guided platelet-rich plasma injections for the treatment of osteoarthritis of the hip. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2012 Jan;51(1):144-50. Epub 2011 Nov 10
4. Kennedy MI, Whitney K, Evans T, LaPrade RF. Platelet-Rich Plasma and Cartilage Repair. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine. 2018 Sep 10:1-0.
5 Sakata R, Reddi AH. Platelet-rich plasma modulates actions on articular cartilage lubrication and regeneration. Tissue Engineering Part B: Reviews. 2016 Oct 1;22(5):408-19.