Surgeons use new blood injection to help treat knee arthritis
It is hoped the development will provide a more effective and longer-lasting alternative to steroid injections, which are currently the most common treatment but last for only a period of weeks and can cause further surface damage if used regularly.
Arthritis of the joints is known as osteoarthritis, the most common form of the condition in the UK, and knee osteoarthritis specifically affects more than 4.7 million people – causing pain and reduced movement.
The pioneering study, led by Gorav Datta, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, involves 60 patients between 18 and 75 years at Southampton General Hospital.
The new treatment sees researchers take a four millilitre sample of each patient’s blood which is then spun in a centrifuge.
This enables the team to separate plasma-rich platelets – which contain hundreds of proteins known as growth factors that help to heal injuries – from the more common red blood cells to enhance their concentration and power.
Once separated, the platelet-only blood is mixed with hyaluronic acid, a substance similar to one that appears naturally in joint fluid and has been used on its own as a treatment for knee arthritis for the past 10 years.
“Arthritis in the knee is very common and a large proportion of patients suffer from knee pain that may not be bad enough for surgery but can require pain killers or regular steroid injections,” explained Mr Datta.
“The negative effects of steroid injections, however, are that they do not last for long – usually a matter of weeks – and that repeated injections may cause further joint surface damage.
“Through the development of this new customised treatment using hyaluronic acid combined with platelet-rich plasma taken from each individual, we are hopeful of achieving longer-lasting pain relief with better knee joint function without the need for steroid injections.”