Platelet injection could be cure for knee pain, but it will cost you

More patients are finding relief from knee pain with an experimental treatment that harnesses the power of their own blood, called platelet rich plasma injections. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE--Thousands of people suffer from knee pain, with treatment ranging from over the counter pain medication to surgery. Now, more patients are finding relief with an experimental treatment that harnesses the power of their own blood.

Loree Bolin is a long time runner, and she's also been a long time sufferer of osteoarthritis. She was at a breaking point with her knee pain when she discovered a treatment at the UW Sports Medicine Center called platelet rich plasma injections.

She's had the injections for a couple years, so at her most recent appointment, she knew what to expect.

"It'll feel great. It's like having, not new knees, but before that running, you feel kind of like you're running on pirate sticks," she described.

Twice a year, Loree comes in for a blood draw. Clinicians run her blood through a process that separates the platelets. The concentrated platelet formula will go directly back into Loree's knees, along with a lubricant.

"Platelets are like little packets of growth factors," explained Dr. Kim Harmon. "The growth factors actually go into the knee, they bind to the joint lining and they get the joint lining to produce things that are good for the joint."

The result? Loree says it's no knee pain.

"I don't think that my osteoarthritis is cured by any means," she said. "If we took an MRI, it wouldn't be. But, it feels just fine. I'm able to perform."

Doctors say the treatment isn't just for elite runners.

"We also see a lot of people that just have problems getting around. Their knees hurt going up and down the stairs, and this is right for them too, for many of them," Dr. Harmon said.

There is one big downside. While Dr. Harmon cites nine studies that have shown the shots improve pain and function, it's not FDA approved and insurance considers it experimental.

Loree pays $600 per knee. But she says that's an investment that keeps her running, keeps her healthy and pain free.

More To Explore