Platelet activation plays a crucial role in wound and soft tissue recovery and healing. The use of platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP) is designed to help increase the body’s natural healing properties. Human blood is primarily made of a cloudy yellowish liquid called plasma. However, the plasma also contains red cells, which transport oxygen; white cells, which help fight infections, and platelets, which help blood clot. Platelets also contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which have been found to help heal injuries. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is plasma which has been especially concentrated to contain five to 10 times more platelets than usual.
PRP is created from a patient’s own blood. After the blood has been drawn, the platelets are separated and spun in a machine called a centrifuge, which concentrates the platelets. The concentrated platelets are then recombined with the remaining blood and injected into the area that is injured. The activated platelets are then injected into the injured or damaged tissues, releasing growth factors which draw in and increase the production of repairing cells. Occasionally, ultrasound imaging is used to guide the injection into the correct position. This treatment is very new and more and more developments are being made each day. PRP may also be used after a surgery to help speed the healing process.
Theoretically, PRP could be used in any kind of orthopedic injury. It is frequently used in tendon injuries, especially tennis elbow (an injury of the tendons on the outside of the elbow). It is also used in acute sports injuries, like pulled hamstring muscles and knee injuries. It has recently been tried in rotator cuff repairs (shoulder surgery) and after knee ligament surgery, as well as being used to treat arthritis.