Platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, treatments have become invaluable for treating orthopedic and sports-related injuries. In fact, PRP therapy is used in a wide variety of medical specializations today to help patients heal faster and avoid more radical or invasive treatments.
Despite a wealth of scientific research supporting this orthobiologic treatment, it remains somewhat of a mystery for patients. Although PRP treatments have been used for decades, the field of regenerative medicine still seems more reminiscent of science fiction than reality to some patients.
Understanding how platelet-rich plasma treatments work can help take a little of the mystery out of this powerful therapy.
What Is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
Essentially, PRP is blood plasma that contains a high platelet concentration.
To create the PRP for treatment, a small quantity of the patient’s blood is drawn. Next, the whole blood is separated in a centrifuge to isolate layers of red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells, and plasma. The platelet and white cell layer is then isolated and centrifuged again to isolate the platelets. Finally, a small amount of plasma is added to the platelets to create the injectable PRP.
The manner in which the PRP is used depends on the specific application. For sports medicine and orthopedic treatments, the doctor injects the PRP into specific locations, based on the nature of the injury or damage.
To ensure that the treatment is delivered to the precise location, live, real-time ultrasonic or fluoroscopic imagery allows the doctor to “see” inside the body, guiding the injection process.
How Do PRP Treatments Improve Healing?
Platelets contain over 30 bioactive proteins that are used in the healing of human body tissue. In addition, they secrete seven protein growth factors that trigger the process of wound healing. Finally, PRP contains three types of proteins that allow cells to adhere to one another, another critical process of healing.
The various processes through which PRP treatments activate healing are highly complex. In the simplest terms, PRP injections activate the same processes the body would normally use, but amplified many times over.
For example, platelets tamp down inflammation cells and enhance cellular growth, while growth factors activate the healing of bone and soft tissue.
Will PRP Treatments Help Your Injury or Chronic Orthopedic Condition?
The research demonstrates a high therapeutic potential of PRP injections for orthopedic and sports-related injuries. But will they work for you?
No single treatment modality works for every patient or every type of injury. However, orthobiologic treatments like PRP and bone marrow-derived stem cell injections have the potential to benefit a wide range of patients who suffer from acute injuries and chronic conditions.
Tendinopathy, ligament injuries, plantar fasciitis and rotator cuff tears are just a few of the general conditions that can benefit from PRP treatment. Ankle sprains, MCL tears, patellar and Achilles tendon injuries, and jumper’s or runner’s knee can all potentially be treated with orthobiologic therapies as well.
Talk to your sports medicine or orthopedic specialist to learn more about PRP treatments and to find out if they may be able to help you.