PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma)
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is plasma with an increased concentration of platelets. Plasma is the liquid part of blood, and platelets are blood cells that aid in clotting and healing. Platelet activation stimulates growth factor release, which speeds up the healing process as growth factors are healing proteins.
How does it work?
To create platelet rich plasma, a patient’s blood is obtained in the office and then are run through a centrifuge to concentrate and separate the plasma (which contains platelets) from the heavier cells (red and white cells). This plasma can then be injected back into the body, and is typically placed in an anatomical location with damage with the intention to initiate or aid in the healing process. Ultrasound can be used to guide the injection in order to increase precision.
The Current and Future State of PRP
There has been a lot of curiosity and media buzz around PRP, as professional athletes like Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal have used it. It seems to be effective in treating tendon problems and knee osteoarthritis but shows little to no efficacy in treating fractures or osteoarthritis in some other joints such as the glenohumeral joint.
Fortunately, PRP is a very low-risk treatment, because it is unlikely for the body to have a bad reaction to its own plasma. Some studies have shown it to be promising, and larger randomized control trials have been called for. More scientific evidence will certainly help us to understand when and how to use this powerful tool.