Platelet-rich plasma, also known as PRP, contains a high concentration of growth factors and platelets. PRP that is used in regenerative medicine is autologous, meaning that it is generated from a person’s own body.
About six percent of normal blood is made up of platelets. On the other hand, PRP contains about 94 percent platelets. These platelets are important in the body because they are able to improve and speed up the healing processes in the body. This is possible because of the many proteins, immune system cells, and other bioactive factors that PRP is composed of.
The History of Platelet-Rich Plasma
The concept of PRP began in the 1970s in the field of hematology, which is the study of blood. This term was coined so that hematologists could define blood that had a higher platelet count than normal blood. This platelet-rich blood was mainly used for blood transfusions for individuals who suffered from low platelet count in their blood.
Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, PRP began to be used during surgical procedures because it has many properties that help with wound closure, reducing inflammation, and increasing new cell growth. The most common procedures in which it was used were periodontal surgery, maxillofacial surgery, cosmetic surgery, and skin grafting.
Since then, PRP began to be used in orthopedics to help with bone grafts and fractures, connective tissue repair, cardiac surgery, sports injuries, plastic surgery, gynecology, urology, and more. Research has also shown that PRP can be effective at reducing scarring, so it is now being used to improve burn scars, post-surgery scars, and acne scarring.
How PRP Therapy Works
Like we mentioned above, PRP is derived from your own blood. A vial of blood is drawn, and then it is centrifuged to separate the different components. This isolates the red blood cells, platelet-rich plasma, and platelet-poor plasma. The plasma rich in platelets is then removed from the vial to be used for PRP therapy.
Platelets play a critical role in the body’s healing processes, especially in the early stages. They help to encourage homeostasis by helping to form blood clots and releasing other chemicals that promote tissue repair.
The benefits of these also help to reduce the need for opioid medications. Opioids are highly addictive, and developing dependence on them is quite common. Using PRP therapy can speed up the healing process, reducing the need for repeated opioid use to manage pain.
How PRP is Used in Regenerative Medicine
One of the biggest advantages of PRP is that it is able to be delivered directly into the injury site. It is also easy to obtain, comes at a low price point, and comes with very few potential negative side effects. Because of these advantages, PRP can be used for many different medical treatments
Chronic Knee and Joint Pain
Chronic knee and joint pain is one of the most common areas of discomfort for adults. Injuries to these areas can include osteoarthritis, tendon strains, rotator cuff injuries, plantar fasciitis, sports hernias, knee cartilage injuries, sports injuries, and many more.
PRP has been shown to help increase the growth of the cells responsible for creating new tissues in the damaged area, whether they build new tendons, muscles, cartilage, and connective tissue. PRP can also help to heal the tissues more effectively, leaving them stronger, thicker, and healthier than they would be without it. This can be especially useful for cartilage injuries, such as osteoarthritis, as it can help to treat the root of the problem by stimulating new cartilage growth, which is generally very difficult because of the poor vascularity.
Wound infections are quite common in the sternal area after heart surgery, and in some cases these infections can lead to death. PRP injections have been shown to improve the healing process, reducing the risk of developing an infection.
Excess bleeding can also sometimes occur during cardiac surgery. Because of this, blood transfusions are needed during surgery by some of the patients. The use of PRP in these procedures has been shown to reduce the total amount of homologous blood that patients need to be transfused. Using PRP has been shown to decrease the number of patients that needed additional transfusions as well.
Back pain is one of the biggest medical issues in the United States, and PRP injections may be a viable solution for this issue. Disc degeneration occurs when the discs between each of the vertebraes in the spine begin to wear down, harden, and lose their ability to deal with compression. This can result in other issues, such as disc herniation or nerve pinching or damage.
PRP may be able to help inhibit the process of disc degeneration by closing up any tears in the tissues and healing them to prevent fluid leaking. PRP may also be able to help regrow any tissue that has become damaged or worn down, leading to less back pain and more functionality in the spine.
For more information on PRP therapy options please contact Active Life Physical Medicine & Pain Center at 623.535.9777 or visit our website at www.activelifepaincenter.com.
How PRP Aids in Injury Recovery
Because of the many tissue types that PRP can help heal, it has been shown to be an effective treatment method for a number of different injuries throughout the body.
Tendon and Ligament Strains and Tears
Tendon and ligament problems are some of the most common impairments, and they are frequently repetitive injuries as well. Tendon injuries can include rotator cuff tears or strains, tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendinopathy, and golfer’s elbow. Tendons are responsible for connecting muscles to bones, so they are found around nearly every joint in the body. When muscles are used repetitively, the tendons are forced to absorb a large amount of shock, and they can become irritated from rubbing against bones.
Ligaments connect bone to bone. The most common injuries are in either the knee, with the ACL, MCL, PCL, or LCL, or in the elbow, with the UCL, which is commonly injured with throwing. The knee ligaments are often injured in sports such as skiing, basketball, football, or soccer, and the UCL is most commonly injured while playing baseball or softball.
Tendons and ligaments generally heal very slowly because they have very little blood flow. However, with PRP injections, tendons and ligaments have been shown to increase their regeneration and increase the strength of the tissues after healing. This can maintain the integrity of the tendons and ligaments, allowing equal function compared to the original tissue.
Osteoarthritis causes damage to and wears down the articular cartilage found on the end of the bones. This reduces joint mobility and can cause constant pain. Osteoarthritis is common in older adults, but it can occur at any age in joints that are overused. The ability of PRP to regenerate cartilage tissues can be a significant help in treating this condition, reducing symptoms and restoring joint function.
One study of 78 individuals who suffered from bilateral osteoarthritis in the knees showed that both a single injection and two injections of PRP into the knee produced positive results, lowering pain and stiffness while increasing physical joint function. They noticed these results both after two to three weeks and after six months. The control group in the study degraded in all of these categories.
Cartilage Tears or Spinal Disc Compression
Cartilage tears are most common in the meniscus of the knee, and the intervertebral discs between the vertebrae in the spine can become worn down, dried out, and compressed over time. Both of these injuries result from damage to fibrocartilage. These areas are composed of thick areas of cartilage, and they play critical roles in resisting compression and absorbing forces put through the body. PRP therapies have been shown to help reduce inflammation in these areas, stimulate new cartilage and blood vessel growth, and restore overall function.
One study compared the difference between PRP injections directly after a spinal disc injury, two weeks after the injury, and a control group. Both groups that received PRP injections showed improvement, but the group that received the treatment immediately showed more promising results. The benefits noted included reduced inflammation, more spinal fluid inside the discs, and increased disc height that improved function.