Posted by Gary Schwitzer in Evidence-based medicine
For some time many news organizations have trumpeted, as ABC’s Good Morning America did, the “cutting-edge” healing powers of platelet-rich plasma therapy or PRP. As is often the case in stories about wonderful new therapies, evidence is cast aside in favor of sparkling anecdotes such as that of pro football player Hines Ward.
Well today evidence gets its turn. Stories by the Wall Street Journal and by the New York Times point out, as the Times put it, “the first rigorous study asking whether the platelet injections actually work finds they are no more effective than saltwater.”
This study was in people with injured Achilles tendons. But as the Times explains, PRP has already been extended to so many uses – “treating muscle sprains and tendon pulls and tears, arthritis, bone fractures and surgical wounds — that Dr. Bruce Reider, editor of The American Journal of Sports Medicine, said in a recent editorial that perhaps it should be called “platelet-rich panacea.”
The lead investigator was even quoted saying, “We are sorry for the patients”
Supposedly a forthcoming study will tout PRP’s benefits in elbow problems, but the Times reports that:
“Dr. Freddie H. Fu, an orthopedist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said the study stacked the deck in favor of platelet injections. …
Although 73 percent of patients given platelet injections improved after a year, compared with 54 percent for steroid injections, Dr. Fu said that was not much success. “Any time you touch a patient, you get 70 percent success,” he said, adding that even placebos give that rate over time.
… Fu said he was keeping an open mind but still did not offer platelet injections. “I just do not have the heart to ask patients to pay for an unproven therapy,” he said.
Guarantee: this won’t be the last you hear of PRP as it is being looked at to treat injured shoulders, knees, elbows, heels – you name it. The old medical maxim applies – to a man with a new hammer, everything looks like a nail.
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