BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE Osteonecrosis of the femoral head (ONFH) is a devastating disease, and there is some evidence that extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) and intra-articular platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection might alleviate pain and improve joint function in individuals with ONFH. The objective of this study was to compare the effectiveness and safety of PRP and ESWT in symptomatic ONFH
patients. METHODS A total of 60 patients aged 40-79 with unilateral ONFH at Association Research Circulation Osseous (ARCO) stages I, II, and III were randomly assigned to the PRP (N=30) or the ESWT group (N=30). Four treatment sessions were provided in both groups. Assessments were performed at baseline, and 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month. Primary outcomes were measured by the visual analogue scale (VAS), and pressure pain thresholds (PPTs). Secondary outcomes were assessed by Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), Harris Hip Score (HHS), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The linear mixed-model analysis was used to evaluate the differences between groups and within groups and the "group by time" interaction effects. RESULTS There were significant differences between groups in terms of changes over time for VAS, PPTs, WOMAC, and HHS since 3-month and maintained up to 12-month (P<0.05, except for PPTs at 12-month). The simple main effects showed that the patients in PRP group had greater improvements in VAS (mean difference = -0.82, 95% CI [-1.39, -0.25], P=0.005), WOMAC (mean difference = -4.19, 95% CI [-7.00, -1.37], P=0.004), and HHS (mean difference = 5.28, 95% CI [1.94, 8.62], P=0.002). No related adverse events were reported. CONCLUSION This study supported the effectiveness and safety of both the PRP injection and ESWT in treating ONFH patients. For symptomatic patients with ONFH, intra-articular PRP injection appeared superior to ESWT in pain relief and functional improvement.