PRP – Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy

PRP – Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy

In many cases, the remedy is within you. The human body continually surprises science with its ability to fight and heal through physical and mental tenacity. Yet, conventional medicine still relies on its quick fix synthetic solutions rather than allow for a slow, internal, undisturbed natural reparation.

This is not to say that conventional medicine is unsuccessful as without it most would be nearing their natural live’s end by thirty-five. It is to say that a simpatico approach may be a better path, allowing for a combined look at the possibility for alternative remedies and pharmaceutical science to work hand-in-hand. One example of this is platelet rich plasma therapy.

Spin and Syringe

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is a remedy introduced in the mid-1990’s found to aid soft tissue recovery after plastic surgery and spinal injury. It entails removing about 30 millimeters of blood from a patient and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the platelets.

According to Dr. Marlene Williams, Assistant Professor of Medicine and CICU Director for Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center,

“Platelets are the cells that circulate within our blood and bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels,…When you get a cut, for example, the platelets bind to the site of the damaged vessel, thereby causing a blood clot.”

Knowing that platelets are the roaming “fixers,” researchers found that if they separated them from a patient’s blood and injected them directly into that patient’s injury, they would spur regeneration and recovery.

It is somewhat like ‘manual transportation,’ helping along platelets to travel to an area that receives minimal blood flow.

When it first began, the results of the small amount of PRP procedures were positive, then around 2009 it began being used for sports related injuries spurning a ‘healing trend’ that continues today. This has shown to be particularly effective in the case of micro-torn tendons and ligaments which need much time to receive circulation for healing while being continually used and potentially damaged at the same time.

Professional athletes were some of the first to benefit from PRP therapy.

In the Thick of It

Basketball great, Kobe Bryant may have been one of the first outspoken supporters of PRP. Before approval in the US, Bryant took multiple trips to Germany for the therapy. Upon his return, he raved of its beneficial results.

Dr. Robert F. LaPrade, Chief Medical Research Officer at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute comments on the PRP used by Bryant,

“The manipulation of one’s blood, as performed on Kobe Bryant and other American professional athletes in the German Regenokine process, is believed to activate the natural anti-inflammatory interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IRAP). This product has proven promising in veterinary medicine where it has been injected into joints and has been reported to decrease swelling and possibly slow down the progression of osteoarthritis.”

Other celebrities touting PRP’s results include Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods and Angelina Jolie.

Another Leap of Faith

The success of PRP therapy has been popular but, for the most part, unsubstantiated. There has yet to be a double blind placebo controlled broad scale study to obtain solid evidence. There are, however, several small studies showing great promise for when a larger study emerges.

One study by researchers at the University of Toronto Orthopedic Sports Medicine Program, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada and published in Arthroscopy (12/29/13) concluded that,

“As compared with HA [hyaluronic acid] or NS [normal saline solution], multiple sequential intra-articular PRP injections may have beneficial effects in the treatment of adult patients with mild to moderate knee OA [osteoarthritis] at approximately 6 months. There appears to be an increased incidence of nonspecific adverse events among patients treated with PRP.”

However, Roger S. Moon, MD, from the Department of Anesthesiology at the Stony Brook University Medical Center, New York comments on his study of PRP longevity,

“In our study, PRP was shown to have a short-term effect but its benefits were not seen after a 90-day period,”

Other cons of PRP are:

  • It can be expensive as, in most cases, it is not covered by insurance potentially costing a patient upwards of $2,000.
  • In the beginning, it may be more painful than expected.
  • Has been linked to being mixed with HGH, human growth hormones.
  • May take long to start working

As more studies and advancements are made with platelet rich plasma therapy, there are good indications that it may be a useful tool to activate the remedy within you. This is especially pertinent due to PRP now having been approved in the US. Talk to your doctor about PRP to see if it may be helpful for your ligament or tendon pain.