BACKGROUND:Achilles tendon rupture (ATR) has a long healing period, which is challenging for patients and clinicians. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an autologous concentration of platelets thought to improve tendon function recovery. Although preliminary research has indicated positive effects, there is, as yet, no evidence of clinical efficacy from adequately powered robust clinical trials. OBJECTIVES:The objectives were to determine the clinical efficacy of PRP in patients with acute ATR using an objective mechanical muscle–tendon function measure and patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), and to determine which PRP components contribute to its mechanism. DESIGN:This was a multicentre, parallel-group, participant- and outcome assessor-blinded randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing PRP with placebo. Two embedded substudies investigated the PRP’s quality and composition and its effects on healing tendon tissues. SETTING:This trial was set in trauma and orthopaedic surgery departments in 19 NHS hospitals in England and Wales. PARTICIPANTS:Adults with acute ATR presenting within 12 days of injury to be treated non-surgically were eligible. Patients with platelet dysfunction or leg functional deficiency were excluded. INTERVENTIONS:Participants were randomised 1 : 1 to the PRP injection group or the placebo group (dry needle in the rupture gap) by central computer-based randomisation using minimisation, stratified by centre and age. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:The primary outcome measure was the Limb Symmetry Index (LSI) of work during the heel-rise endurance test at 24 weeks. Secondary outcomes measures, collected at 4, 7, 13 and 24 weeks, were repetitions, maximum heel-rise height, Achilles tendon Total Rupture Score (ATRS), quality of life (as measured using the Short Form questionnaire-12 items version 2), pain and participant goal attainment. Needle biopsies of the affected tendon zone were taken under ultrasound guidance at 6 weeks from 16 participants from one centre. Whole blood was analysed for cell count. PRP was analysed for cell count, platelet activation and growth factor concentration. The primary analysis was intention to treat. RESULTS:A total of 230 participants were randomised: 114 to the PRP group (103 treated) and 116 to the placebo group (all treated). One participant withdrew after randomisation but before the intervention. At 24 weeks, 201 out of 230 participants (87.4%) completed the primary outcome and 216 out of 230 participants (93.9%) completed the PROMs. The treatment groups had similar participant characteristics. At 24 weeks, there was no difference in work LSI (mean difference –3.872; 95% confidence interval –10.454 to 2.710; p = 0.231), ATRS, pain or goal attainment between PRP- and placebo-injected participants. There were no differences between the groups in any PROM at any time point or in complication rates, including re-rupture and deep-vein thrombosis. There was no correlation between work LSI and platelet activation in PRP, or erythrocyte, leucocyte or platelet counts in whole blood or PRP. Biopsies showed similar cellularity and vascularity between groups. CONCLUSIONS:This trial design and standardised PRP preparation gives the first robust RCT evidence about PRP’s role in managing ATR, which suggests that PRP offers no patient benefit. Equally robust evidence to investigate PRP application in tendon and soft tissue injuries is required. The 24-month follow-up will be completed in April 2020. TRIAL REGISTRATION:Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN54992179. FUNDING:This project was funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme, a Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) partnership. The trial was supported by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, Oxford, and the NIHR Fellowship programme.
Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK