Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is one of the most exciting areas of research in orthopedics and sports medicine. PRP is produced using a patient’s own blood to promote the healing process. PRP treatment has received significant attention from the media for its use by professional and elite athletes such as golfer Tiger Woods, tennis star Rafael Nadal and members of the National Football League for a variety of tendon injuries and muscle sprains. However, PRP is still considered an experimental treatment that works well for some patients and does not work at all for others for unknown reasons.
What is PRP?
PRP is a concentration of platelets which circulate through the blood and are critical for blood clotting. Platelets also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are an important component of healing during the initial phase of inflammation and cell proliferation.
After a blood sample is obtained from the patient, the test tube is put into a centrifuge which separates the platelets from other blood cells, creating a concentration of growth factors that is 5-10 times richer than usual.
The PRP is administered to the patient through an injection, usually using ultrasound guidance to ensure the precise placement of the PRP into the injured area.
After the injection, patients should avoid anti-inflammatory medications and exercise before beginning a rehabilitation program.
How Does PRP Work?
It is not entirely understood how PRP works, however, laboratory studies have shown that the increased concentration of growth factors in PRP can potentially speed up the healing process. PRP has shown to be effective to varying degrees as a treatment for chronic tendon injuries, acute ligament and muscle injuries, knee arthritis, and to promote the healing process after certain surgeries. Clinical research is ongoing. For reasons not yet understood, PRP can be highly effective for some patients and completely ineffective for others.
Concerns Involving PRP Treatment
PRP does contain endogenous growth factors, so some doping agencies consider it to be a performance-enhancing substance. However, there is no current data to suggest that PRP is actually a performance-enhancing substance.
Key Points to Remember
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) comes from a patient’s own blood.
- PRP is a concentrated source of growth factors and cellular signaling factors that play a significant role in the biology of healing.
- Basic science studies show that PRP treatment may improve healing in many tissues.
- Clinical studies in humans are ongoing to show the effectiveness of PRP treatment for injuries and chronic conditions.
- Anti-inflammatory medicines should be stopped before and after PRP treatment is given.
While PRP treatment is relatively new, considered experimental and not FDA approved, it is a low risk procedure, and many ONS patients find it to be beneficial. At ONS patients who receive PRP are closely followed to study the effectiveness of the treatment and to identify which conditions benefit most from PRP.