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Is Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy Ethical If It’s Experimental?

June 30, 2011

You don’t need to look very far to find a mountain of good data on the positive effects of platelet-rich plasma [PRP] therapy on animals.

The studies and the science is there. Human data, on the other hand, is more limited.

Why is that? First of all, it’s hard to do high-level studies. These types of studies are costly and time-consuming. PRP therapy is a newer technique as far as some of the contemporary techniques have only been around for a couple of years.

But we’re getting close. We’ve identified the important variables when it comes to using PRP therapy to treat sports injuries. We now just need to do those studies. That means we need to collect careful data on our patients.

But until then, is it safe to treat patients with PRP therapy if we can’t say to them this is going to work? In other words, is PRP therapy ethical sports medicine?

Well, I think, first of all, it’s ethical if you explain exactly what the technology is, what you’re doing, what the expectations are, and you’re very, very honest with the information that’s out there.

So yes, I think it’s ethical.

And in Bartolo Colon’s case, and in many athletes’ cases, there’s really not a whole lot out there for a 37-year-old pitcher who’s pretty much done.

So if this is your only shot and the one thing that may make a difference, rotator cuff surgery on a 37-year-old pitcher or any pitcher is probably not going to work all that well.

The basic science research has to be done. And then I think we need to do clinical research, and that is double-blind studies looking at these patients, the human people and saying are they really any better than our conventional rotator cuff repairs.

My personal opinion is that they are, and I think our results are better since we’ve been doing it, but again, that’s– what I say isn’t really science until we’ve studied it in a true study.

Do Stem Cells and PRP Therapy Give Positive Results?

Without a doubt, I’ve seen some positive results. There’s a fair amount of variability out there, but I think there can very much be positive results, and I would be optimistic about it.

We need more information as to really the best cell type, and that may vary for different anatomic areas.

Do you treat a shoulder differently than you would an elbow? There are a lot of variables we don’t understand.

In the end, both stem cell and PRP treatments are being used frequently with great effectiveness. They’re safe but we do need to carefully study those patients in whom we use this and really look at what we’re putting into the patients so that we can truly understand what is effective, what is not, what parts are effective, to really start to have a more refined understanding of this whole area.

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