Over the years, the use of Platelet rich plasma has become routine and its effectiveness in the treatment of many musculoskeletal conditions is well reported.
What is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)?
Although blood is mainly a liquid (called plasma), it also contains small solid cell components (red cells, white cells, and platelets). The platelets are essential for blood clotting. However, platelets also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors that are very important in the healing of injuries.
PRP is plasma with many more platelets than what is typically found in blood. The concentration of platelets and thus, the concentration of growth factors can be 5 to 10 times greater than usual.
To develop a PRP preparation, blood is first drawn from a patient. The platelets are then separated from other blood cells and their concentration is increased during a process called centrifugation. This fluid(plasma) that is rich in Platelets is then injected into the injured area.
Extensive research studies have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of PRP in a variety of acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions.
- Chronic tendon Injuries: Current Research suggests that that PRP is effective in the treatment of chronic tendon conditions like Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis), Chronic Achilles Tendonitis and Patellar Tendonitis (Jumper’s Knee).
- Acute Muscle and Ligament Injuries: PRP has been used in professional athletes in the treatment of acute muscle or ligament injuries. E.g. pulled Hamstring muscles in the thigh or acute knee ligament sprain.
- Osteoarthritis: More and more literature is now available showing the effectiveness of PRP in the treatment of low and moderate grade Knee and Hip Arthritis. Some studies have shown that the results can last up to 2 years. The goal is to reduce the pain, improve function and hopefully slow/halt the progress of damage to cartilage.
It is not very clear how exactly PRP works. However, laboratory studies have shown that high concentrations of growth factors can potentially speed up the healing process.
To speed up the healing process, the PRP should be delivered to the injury site. This is a precise process, and it can be delivered either carefully injecting the PRP into the injured area or arthritic joint either directly or by X-ray/Ultrasound guidance. For some injuries, PRP can also be used during surgery.