Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
PRP is platelet rich plasma. Platelets are specific cells in your blood that cause clotting to stop bleeding from a cut or internal injury. In addition, platelets house growth factors in the body. Platelets play an important role in many processes such as coagulation, immune response, the development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), and healing damaged tissues.
PRP concentrates your body’s platelets without the extra blood cells, and delivers them in high volume to the damaged tissue.
In a PRP injection procedure, your doctor first takes a measured amount of your own (autologous) blood, and puts it into a centrifuge, which is a machine that spins the blood very fast so that it separates into red blood cells and concentrated platelets. Your doctor then discards the red blood cells which leaves concentrated platelet rich plasma.
The PRP is then injected under ultrasound or xray (fluoroscopy) guidance into the injured tissues, where they receive a healing boost, stimulating the injured tissues and enhancing their own power to heal.
Where do the platelets come from?
The blood is autologous, meaning they come from you. Auto means self, like an autobiography is a book you write about yourself. Therefore, these platelets come from yourself. Because your own blood is being used, there is no risk of blood-borne illnesses, like hepatitis or HIV. Furthermore, because it’s autologous, PRP is an acceptable treatment under FDA guidelines.
How long has platelet rich plasma been used in this way?
PRP has been used in cellular regeneration since 1987, when it was first used to heal chronic skin ulcers. It’s been used in therapies to treat soft tissue diseases and injuries, burns, hard-to-heal wounds, and in surgical procedures, like oral surgery and orthopedic surgery.
What injuries have been successfully healed with PRP?
PRP has stepped in to help people successfully overcome a variety of sports and orthopedic injuries, including:
- Achilles Tendinitis
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer’s elbow
- Early partial tendon tears
- Strained and torn muscles
- Sprained ligaments
- Plantar fasciitis
- Pain after an acute injury
- Chronic degenerative joint disease
This is just a small list of common conditions treated with platelet rich plasma. People of all ages and walks of life seek PRP, including professional athletes who rely upon their bodies for their careers.
What is a stem cell?
A stem cell is a very special cell in the body that actually is undefined. This means that the cell can become a specific type of cell, depending on the body’s need. Once its role becomes defined, it remains that type of cell. In other words, a stem cell itself does not serve the body in any its undefined state, but it can develop into a cell that does, such as a cartilage cell or a bone cell, and it will remain that type of cell.
For example, stem cells that are placed near damaged cartilage are hypothesized to develop into cartilage tissue because that’s what the body needs there. However, be very careful of claims that regenerative treatments are going to regrow the cartilage in a knee with severe arthritis. The pain relief experienced by patients with arthritis is more likely due to the improved environment in the knee that often results from a bone marrow aspirate procedure or other regenerative treatments. Many regenerative treatments are believed to help delay cartilage loss and reduce pain, but there are no studies showing that regenerative treatments can regrow large cartilage surfaces at this time.
Stem cells obtained through bone marrow aspirate may be used by a skilled physician to help with bone healing, cartilage defects, tendon or ligament tears, bone fractures and more.
Where do stem cells come from?
Stem cells are located throughout the body. The most common type of stem cells used for treating arthritis and orthopedic conditions are mesenchymal stem cells, which are typically harvested from fat tissue or bone marrow. There is currently much debate about the use of fat as a source for these cells, due to recent and historical guidance from the FDA. Bone marrow aspirate concentrate is currently considered by most doctors to be in line with FDA guidance. There are many other types of stem cell sources being marketed, which have very few if any stem cells, but may have some benefit in helping orthopedic conditions. This has yet to be proven in any substantial studies. These products are often classified as amniotic or allogeneic. Current FDA guidance hints that these products are going to be the subject of more scrutiny in the future, because they are not autologous (from your own body).
Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside the large bones in the body, including the hip and thigh bones, and produces the body’s blood cells. There are two types of bone marrow: red and yellow. Red bone marrow consists of highly vascular tissue containing hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells are programmed to form blood cells.
Yellow bone marrow contains marrow stromal cells, also known as mesenchymal stem cells. These produce bone, cartilage, and fat.