SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) - The pain, swelling and stiffness of arthritis can greatly affect your quality of life. While symptoms can be eased through anti-inflammatory medication, therapy and sometimes even surgery others are touting an alternative treatment.
Many don't want to endure surgery or deal with side effects of arthritis medication. It turns out some arthritic patients don't have to. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, a Canadensis woman is among them who's turning to a spinning machine and her own blood for successful treatment.
It's a needle injection that's turned Beverly O'Lear's life around. "Since it worked so well, just kept going up one side and down the other," she said. She's received Platelet Rich Plasma, or PRP treatments, for osteoarthritis in both elbows and one knee.
PRP treatments work by first drawing a patient's own blood and putting it into a rapidly rotating machine called a centrifuge. Spinning at 1,500 revolutions per minute, the centrifuge separates your red blood cells from your plasma. Geisinger Primary Care Sports Medicine Physician Justin Tunis, MD said "When we pull off just that plasma layer, there are certain cells in there called platelets and there's also growth factors and other proteins that can help stimulate sort of a regenerative process."
Using ultrasound for guidance, the platelet rich plasma is injected directly into the arthritic joint. "There are certain growth factors and proteins that are able to actually recruit special cells called stem cells that are inside your own body to come to the area where we inject the plasma and help to promote healing," said Dr. Tunis.
The use of PRP started several years ago to treat sports injuries but more recently has shown promise for osteoarthritis patients by reducing their chronic inflammation and turning down pain receptors. Beverly has undergone several arthroscopies and taken arthritic medication but considers PRP treatment second to none. "This was, to me, the best one because they were using what was in me, putting it back in again," she said.
Treatment benefits typically take two to six weeks to occur. Beverly, who's received three PRP treatments, says she reaps results in a matter of days. When asked how life changing the treatment has been she said, "150 percent".
Most insurance does not cover PRP treatments which means patients like Beverly must pay out of pocket. It could cost several hundred dollars or more. Efforts continue to pressure the insurance industry to pay for PRP.