Dr. Carolyn Kochert, M.D.
American Board Of Pain Medicine | American Board Of Anesthesiology
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy is the first practical application of natural tissue engineering. It involves generating a concentrated "dose" of the patient's own blood platelets, then applying this concentration back into the patient at his or her afflicted pain area in the body.
By containing and releasing at least seven different growth factors (cytokines) that stimulate bone and soft tissue healing, PRP represents a promising solution to accelerate healing of tendon injuries and osteoarthritis—naturally, without subjecting the patient to significant risk.
This PRP is an advanced treatment in a new health sector known as "orthobiologics" that merges leading-edge technology with the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
Ligaments are the structural "rubber bands" that connect bone to bone in joints. Tendons are the tissues that connect muscle to bone.
Injuries to these tissues can involve microscopic tearing and the formation of scar tissue, which is problematic because ligament and tendon damage suffers poor blood supply. In effect, on its own, the body has difficulty healing these types of injuries, because it struggles to get enough of the necessary healing or growth factors to the area.
Thus, the pain associated with these injuries becomes chronic.
Blood is made of RBC (Red Blood Cells), WBC (White Blood Cells), Plasma and Platelets.
When in their resting state, platelets look like sea sponges and, when activated, they form branches.
Platelets were initially known to be responsible for blood clotting. But, in the last 20 years, medical researchers have learned that, when activated, they also release healing proteins called growth factors.
There are many growth factors with varying responsibilities. However, cumulatively, they accelerate tissue and wound healing. Therefore, after increasing the baseline concentration of these platelets, doctors are able to deliver a powerful cocktail of growth factors that can dramatically enhance tissue recovery.
The process involves taking a small vial of the patient's blood—about 30 milliliters—and spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the platelet-rich plasma from the other components.
This concentrated PRP fluid is, then, injected back into the patient at the site of the injury. In theory, the growth factors that platelets secrete (not including human growth hormone) spur tissue recovery.
The procedure initially causes more discomfort at the site, because the injured tissue is already very sensitive, before a needle is then inserted and extra fluid is forced into the area.
The resulting pressure increase, in turn, further irritates the tissue, which can lead to worsening of the pain early on.
But this is all part of the short journey toward healing and the ultimate goal of saying goodbye to the chronic pain.