Several times a year the Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) conducts training courses for doctors looking to add stem cell and PRPs therapies to their practices. The therapies are intended to treat musculoskeletal injuries, degenerative diseases, hair loss, and some of the effects of aging. Unfortunately, ARMI doesn’t have enough students to run training classes every single week.
The dilemma ARMI faces is a curious one. They have, at their fingertips, treatments that have proven effective for a range of diseases and injuries. These therapies are viable alternatives to pain medication, steroid injections, and surgery. And yet, so many doctors are just not on board with stem cell and PRP therapies. Could education change that?
Yes – Clinical Data Does Exist
One of the chief complaints routinely lodged against regenerative medicine procedures like stem cell and PRP injections is the lack of clinical data proving safety and efficacy. As the thinking goes, PRP injections designed to treat osteoarthritis are not proven. And if they are not proven, they should be recommended. But is that thinking correct? No, it’s not.
Clinical data does exist. For example, consider a 2016 study that was random, double-blind, placebo-controlled, and approved by the FDA. The study, out of the University of Missouri, demonstrated that osteoarthritis patients treated with PRP injections showed a 78% improvement from baseline. Those patients treated with placebo reported only 7% improvement.
The clinical data does not end there. Two more meta-analysis studies published in 2017 further demonstrated the efficacy of PRP therapy for treating osteoarthritis:
- The first analysis concluded that “intra-articular PRP injection may have more benefit in pain relief and functional improvement… at one-year post-injection.”
- The other found that “intra-articular PRP injections probably are more efficacious in the treatment of knee OA… compared with other injections, including saline placebo, HA, ozone, and corticosteroids.”
Clinical data showing the efficacy of PRP treatments is out there. Perhaps it’s not as voluminous as the data relating to steroid injections and surgery, but its volume is growing. The more PRP injections are being studied, the more researchers are discovering just how efficacious they are.
Yes, Application Matters
Another important area of education is that of application. A decade ago, there were no real standards for preparing PRP material or injecting it at the injury site. Doctors did whatever they thought was best. This lack of standards led to inconsistent results across large patient groups. But as we have since learned, such random application of PRP therapy doesn’t achieve good results.
Today, there’s a strong push to teach doctors proper application. It’s not enough to know the science and physiology behind stem cell and PRPs therapies. Doctors also need to know how to apply the therapies most effectively. This includes sourcing the autologous material used in the treatment, processing that material, and choosing injection sites.
How injection sites are chosen is a good example of why education in application is so important. We have since discovered that injections are not very effective in treating osteoarthritis when a doctor follows a ‘close enough’ approach. Conversely, using imaging equipment can help doctors pinpoint exact locations for their injections. When the right locations are chosen, injections do a lot better.
Better Training Equals Better Results
To wrap all of this up, better training tends to lead to better results across all areas of medicine. This includes regenerative medicine. Similarly, educating doctors about the details of stem cell and PRP therapies might encourage more of them to embrace regenerative medicine. Hopefully, the ARMI and other training organizations will eventually be training doctors year-round.